The Furnace

Please respond to the following in approximately 400-600 words: Wallace Bacon, a recipient of an honorary doctorate from Emerson College in 1975, wrote that the liberal arts, or humanities, “are concerned with the question of what makes life worth living. And that question concerns not simply oneself but others. The humanities must help us learn who we are; they must help us learn the otherness of others.” In this light, describe an encounter with someone or something different—an “other” which revealed to you your sense of self and your relationship to humanity. This encounter may involve a person, place, culture, or text (book, speech, film, play, etc.).

The Furnace

My lungs heaved as though filled with old ash as I made my way up the cliff, arms' length by arms' length. It's a tradition at my school for the seniors to take a four-day excursion into the wilderness on the Outward Bound program. Day two: rock climbing. Most things, like ghouls or the dark or the patriarchy or the future, don’t scare me. However, in the early 2000’s (which doesn’t scare me either, although the newest fashions should), I nearly plummeted to my death on a rock wall at a birthday party when my belayer was paying more attention to boys climbing nearby than to my safety. As a result, I hate rock climbing, and I’d planned to skip the activity altogether. However, everyone else in my crew had gone, and they pressured me to follow suit. While I’m not the type to succumb readily to peer pressure, I soon found myself dangling from a granite ledge. Looking down, it seemed like the shot from Vertigo; the cliff rose while the ground stretched farther away. I hung from the Chimneys, a series of cliffs thousands of feet above a valley amidst the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It was October. The treetops looked like fire.

I reached for the next ledge. I missed. I dangled from my belay cord. Reflexively,...

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