Writing Catalog

Angela Shang

Grade: 12

Hawken School

Instructor: Abby Chew


Personal Essay & Memoir


I once read a beautiful line from a Rabindranath Tagore poem: let life be beautiful like summer flowers and death like autumn leaves. It stuck with me, not necessarily in a way that I hold onto a mantra to live by, but as a reminder of the beauty of humanity in moments I feel the most alive.

13.8 billion years ago, everything suddenly came to be. If ancient tales were right, there was a God proclaiming let there be light. In a one-of-a-trillionth second, all matter that makes up our reality was created, primitive nebula clouds swirled, and through some miracle, 9.2 billion years later, one of those atomic clouds condensed to the sun. Alongside it, is a small, rocky planet, still covered with magma and seismic activities. A stark contrast to its view 3.7 billion years later, when the right molecules encountered under the right conditions, and life sparked.

A miracle wasn't enough to describe this wonder. The tree of evolution, budding from the seed planted billions of years ago, branched to marvelous sights and endowed Earth with the gift of life. And soon, the place we call home was brimming with it. Early human civilizations searched for their origins and looked to the stars. Greeks and Romans fabricated intricate tales of Gods and Goddesses, wrenching romantic tragedies and heroes of the epics, all attempting to explain this world and its place within it. Since the very start, humans were always embarking on some quest, the knight doesn't know the dangers of his journey, but still decided to face the unknown with chivalry. In some ways, Prometheus is a mirror of us, disobeying the Gods in an act of defiance, just like Eve stealing the fruit from the tree of knowledge, granting us free will. Isn't that the beauty of humanity? She was banished from the garden of Eden, but she still loved with a body that has no heart and sacrificed her blood, her free will, so that we can live fully.

The Romans had a beautiful phrase: ad Astra. To the stars. No matter how far we've come from the conquering of Alexander the Great, from Caesar and his untimely demise, from the warring nations of ancient China, from Galileo proclaiming that we're no longer the center of the universe, we are still mesmerized by the stars. "Up" seems to have some special meaning, freedom, tetherless, no longer bind down by gravity. It's surprisingly poetic, in a way, that we all want to be embraced by the cold universe in the end, just like how its scorching womb nurtured everything that came to be.

Of course, there must be an end to everything. In time stretches inconceivable to our weak senses, supernova explosions will create a world of black holes, devouring everything, reducing into total night. But black holes die, too. Through Hawking radiation, in hundreds of thousands of millennials, even the most formidable of all will fall and evaporate into a sea of photons, and as entropy reaches its limits, time will lose its meaning.

Where will we be at the end of time? Who will remember us? Life bloomed beautifully, but unlike what most would like it to be, it will not die with blazing fire, but with a whimper, forever echoing and lost in the empty space.

But the end doesn't matter at all. What does matter is that we lived, we laughed, we created, and we lamented. The beauty of humanity never lies in the applause when the curtains close on an exquisitely built stage, but in the euphoric feeling of existence, like a snowflake landing on your hand, its last moment before being stolen away by warmth. So no matter where we stand, where we came from, where we will go, never abandon this magic, this miracle.

Live like a summer flower, and don't weep when the last leaf of autumn gently falls into the night.