There has recently been much excitement around campus about the Dalai Lama’s visit to Colgate in the coming weeks. It’s the latest buzz on campus for students and faculty alike. So many of us find it hard to believe that such a renowned world figure and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize will be visiting the small town of Hamilton! Recently I heard one Colgate student say to another: “It doesn’t matter whether you care about Buddhism or not. If the Pope were coming to Colgate, you’d go. The Dalai Lama is coming, so you’re going to go. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity!”
Beyond the hype of the upcoming Dalai Lama lecture, however, is an even more striking notion that has come to my attention as a result of all this excitement. As unfortunate as this might sound, I would say that at least half of Colgate students don’t know about the subject matter of the Dalai Lama’s lecture. I’m sure many students are smart enough to know that he will be advocating for human rights, non-violence, and the freedom of the people of his homeland, but many of us don’t know a lot about the current catastrophic conflict between the Chinese and the Tibetan people. This is in no way a criticism of Colgate students – I’m sure Colgate knows a lot more about world events than the average university student body in America. Instead, I’d like to argue that the media has flushed our brains with so much meaningless information that it takes a concerted effort to keep up on important current events.
Here’s a good example: How many people actually care about the personal life of Britney Spears? Not many, especially on a campus like Colgate that values academia and high-minded ways of thinking. Yet despite this, I’d be willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of us know that Britney had an awful fallout with ‘K-Fed,’ is a horribly irresponsible mother, has a pregnant younger sister, and wasn’t wearing underwear when a paparazzi snapped a photo of her getting out of a car a few months ago. Who cares, right? Certainly not many of us. Yet every time we stand in line at the grocery store or turn on the television, we are overwhelmed by this useless information. It’s constantly staring us in the face and is impossible to ignore.
Certainly this observation of mine is not a new one – the media has always been considered detrimental to society in many ways. However, it’s important to be reminded of this reality and to place it in a renewed context everyday. Luckily, one of the most valuable things about our Colgate education is that it has taught us all to think ‘outside-the-box’ and to question what we are told. As many of our alumni have told us in their columns this year, Colgate students are ready for the real world because they know how to think and look at things objectively. Our challenge now is to look beyond the television screen and the tabloids and dig for the more worthwhile and valuable knowledge.