Patagonia, Color, Vanity

Trying to find a rain jacket for school led me to wonder where the name brand Patagonia got its name. I expected it to be a geographical term similar to another cool word archipelago, so I was kind of surprised when it showed up on Google as a real place in South America stretching across parts of Chile and Argentina. I was even more surprised to see its dual nature of beauty and treacherousness. Sharp, alien rocks literally jut out of snow and ice shelves while in the valleys, green brush and heather grow in much greater quantity than would be expected for the southern arctic tip of South America.


As I continued to look through images and blogs (how cool would it be to be one of those people who actually get to see these images in person!), images of color dancing off the ice and filtering through the mist gave the landscape an even more ethereal look. I felt like I was watching Fantasia 2000. Penguins, horses, seals, and enthusiastic but freezing adventurers made appearances in these photos that almost didn’t look real.


It’s hard to believe that these things exist in person and yet getting there and actually seeing these nature paintings in their full beauty, which no camera or editing program can do justice, is highly unlikely or impossible for most of us.

I’ve been overwhelmed with an awareness of my youth, as of late. My vigor and fleeting energy and enthusiasm with relatively little required responsibility. Seeing scenes of these colorful mists wafting over such a piercingly beautiful landscape create an urge in me to be there and see these things for myself. Oddly enough, these colorful photos have something in common with the Color Run I just signed up for the other day. I was hesitant to sign up, because of the cost (I am a tight-budget college student), yet part of me said, “Do it. When will you get another chance to do a run like this with friends that is on everyone’s bucket lists?” The answer, of course, is that it is possible that I could maintain a healthy love of running even when I’m older (something I fully hope to do), but I have noticed that whenever I say, “I can just wait and do that some other time,” the opportunity often doesn’t ever come back around.

So I signed up for the Color Run. But I’m still working on the whole world travel thing. I want it to happen, but I know that ultimately, though I will undoubtedly have moments of sheer amazement and wonder at the places I hope to see, I also know that there will also probably be times of slight if not very obvious disappointment. For in the imagination, reality becomes grander, more colorful, more magical and there is a certain type of desire and hope for something that looks at the Patagonia or Niagara or the Coral Reef and says, “This still could’ve been better. This still could’ve been even more beautiful and mind-blowing than it is, because I can imagine something even better.” 

I began my week as a sophomore with a sermon at my church here on Ecclesiastes, a book that often gets a bad rap either because people think it is hopeless and depressing or because they can’t seem to reconcile its message with the rest of the Bible. The pastor did help me to see how Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8 can be reconciled to my current situation. 

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth.Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.
10 Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.

12 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have 
no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets—before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

It came down to this: enjoy your youth and take advantage of your fleeting years of vigor (which is where the “all is vanity comes in,” because none of us is growing younger), but also, remember the Lord your God, your Creator (because one day all that you see before you that is vanity will fade away). This struck me soundly, especially as a college student surrounded by an atmosphere that, from the students’ perspective, often touts, “Do what you have to do to pass your responsibilities and have a good time.” 

However, another trend I’ve seen among the more ambitious college students is a work ethic to the other extreme. Young people getting 3-4 hours of sleep a night, cramming material into their brains for a ridiculously hard test that they will never look at again, and then move on to the next level with the same methods. A lot of the material, they fully know that they will either never use or never fully understand, but still they know that they have to somehow cram and regurgitate the knowledge to pass the class and get a job. Meanwhile, their health deteriorates, their social engagement becomes stressed, and they are tempted to if not reliant on medications, caffeine, or energy drinks to stay alert, among many other things. Their time is completely wrapped around the question of, “How can I pass this class and stack up a really good resume.” 

Now, here is my disclaimer, these goals in themselves are good goals; I don’t think anyone would argue that not trying to pass a class is a good idea. I am not saying that every student with ambition or who works hard in school is doing it merely for a job or to put something on their resume. I know that I personally, have ambitions to do well and be independent and responsible as a student, and I also do try to look for ways to add variety and length to my resume. However, my concern arises when these things become everything in a student’s thinking. I am worried and wary of our idea of learning when many students lose sleep, skip meals, and do ridiculous amounts of homework when it is not necessary, especially when a whole different kind of learning exists outside the university. When you heap on top of that load the responsibilities of being a good worker, child, and sibling off campus, you still haven’t touched on any mental/spiritual/homelife struggles that also may take up a lot of that student’s time and thought life.  

I realize that I begin to ramble (most likely, there will be a future post talking more about the pressures on Millennials), but my point is that, whether a student has no work load or a huge work load, the temptation is to sit back and let whatever menial pleasures come to you as they may or to become so tied up in papers, files, and schedules that the opportunities to experience the real beauties and intricacies of the world pass by. The world is more than go to school, pass college, get a job, work, retire, just as ife is more than bread and the body more than clothing. We get into this mindset that there are invisible age markers that determine your future. The idea of college, though unaccessible for some, is also unquestionable for others. We think that, “That’s just the way life goes… everybody does it that way”– go to school, pass college, get a job, work, retire. Some of these pressures are the result of social patterns and policies, however, a lot of the burden rests on us to simply look up and look out at the people and world around us who pass us by so quickly. 

When we grow older, I don’t want to be like Emily from Our Town who beseeches the shades of her family and friends bustling about in her memories, missing out on living rather than simply existing: “Oh, Earth, you’re too wonderful for anyone to realize you!” Of course, their is a spiritual aspect that goes beyond Earth, for even focusing on Earth alone means missing out on the spiritual and invisible qualities that give purpose and beauty to what we observe in our world. There is so much to learn and enjoy around us, but also so much pursuing to be done. We must be active, not passive, both in work and leisure, beauty and practicality. Live life to the fullest, but remember your Creator.