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Find "X", an aspiring math major - extended essay for Chicago's supplement

MatWirth 3 / 4  
Nov 7, 2010   #1
My main concern is that the essay vague and does not answer the questions. Any suggestions on how to make it clearer? If you find any other issues please edit them too. Thanks for your help

As an aspiring math major I hoped I would be able to find X pretty quickly and get on with my life, but as soon as I delved into the problem I bumped into difficulties. I was forced to admit that in life X is a variable, not a hidden value, and that its equation is as mutable as the people looking for it. For many, X is the unknown, or rather what we want to know, but to me X is the value that is necessary for everything else to make sense, the specific piece of data that completes and unites the given information. X is perfection, balance, and peace all rolled into one. To me, X is happiness

I set out feeling confident and motivated, but once I started looking for X around me, it became apparent that it did not always exist outside of algebra. I thought someone had to have the answer to the question, considering it had been asked repeatedly since ancient times. Also, it seemed logical that people would build a society in which eveyone could find X and be happy, so I simply tried to observe others to see how they had found X. Almost immediately, a cold shiver shot through my spine as I realized that most people around me were caught in a desperate chase of a mystical X that would seemed hopelessly stagnant. I was terrified to see people let their dreams and aspirations be ruled by accepted customs and neglect their friends or duties to follow what others imposed on them as the way to happiness. They criticized everyone including themselves for not being able to find happiness in the narrow frame of socially valued conduct and thought and were unable to realize it was these limitations that were to be rejected, not the people who did not live by them. I shuddered when I saw ads on posters, TV, magazines and newspapers promoting a profusion of illogical, contradictory, and illusory X's. I was disgusted at the countless scammers who promised the key to a delusional paradise I knew didn't exist. They promoted everything from magic shoes to pills and herbs that would not only cure insomnia and obesity, but solve marital problems and raise low self-esteem. It was desolating to see people herded like cattle from one empty promise to the next, unable to break away from the seducing fantasies. Frantically, I distanced myself from their insanity and stood reflecting on my own knowledge of X. However, I found I was no closer to finding it than any of the charlatans in the ads.

I began by asking people I respected and held in high steem what they knew about X, but was stumped by the same answer in different guise. "I am not sure", which to me read "I do not know", seemed to be the full extent of their knowledge. Then I delved into the countless philosophies that claimed to have found the sure path to happiness. However, a life of aesthetic resignation or one of contemplation seemed empty rather than lofty to me, as I am convinced that happiness lies in what one decides to do, not in denying oneself from pleasure. Yet hedonism did not appeal to me either, since I was certain that avoiding pain would lead to passing up on great life experiences and opportunities. So I again despaired when I saw nobody was able to provide me with guidance to happiness.

Just as I began to think X had deserted me I realized maybe I was looking at it the wrong way. Just as some problems in math can only be solved if you organize the facts correctly, maybe there was some other way of finding X, a sublime proof that happiness lay comfortably within our grasp. It was a slim chance, but it was something. With this grain of hope I tried to write down everything I could about X, that cloudy concept everybody was after. That's when it hit me. I did not know what I (or anybody else) was chasing so frantically. I knew it was missing, and that it would be the ultimate convergence of peace, balance, harmony, and satisfaction, but nothing else. X appeared to me covered up in veils, retreating far from reality into fantasy.

Sullen, feeling defeated, I reluctantly rejoined the mass of people helplessly jumping from one delusion to the next, unable to detach myself from them and face the shattering idea that X was nowhere to be found. Yet, the alternative soon became unbearable because once I was able to see the reality of this never ending hunt; the prospect of being caught in it for the rest of my existence seemed worst than the worst abandonment. My mind could just not accept that the equation of happiness could not be solved, that X was a concept outside of reality. This instinct that life could not be devoid of meaning eventually persuaded me that X had to exist. Again, I devoted my undivided attention to shinning light on its nature, and again I stumbled into baffling complexities. The more I searched, the more apparent it became that no combination of power, wealth, intelligence, charm or companionship ensured happiness under every circumstance. I was forced to change my focus and approach X differently.

Maybe, I thought, just maybe, it is not that no circumstances ensure happiness, but rather that every situation (or at least most) has the potential of being a happy one. After all, the humblest people seemed to be the less attracted to finding X, they had little, but seemed to lack nothing. I rewrote my formula, and defined X as the ability to use whatever circumstance I was in to achieve my own personal goals. I saw that the reason no philosophy seemed satisfying was that no one could tell me what I wanted, it was a matter of defining my objectives and working towards them, no matter how small or trivial these were. When I did this, I saw the coefficients for those things I had considered most important to be infinitesimally small, and two values seemed to hold the most weight in the equation. They were freedom and individuality. I realized that X had to equal freedom, as happiness is only found when we are able to hunt it without restrains, and explore it without obligations. Yet, the herds of people who hunted X in ads and products were free to look for happiness, but seemed to never find it. That's where individuality came in. What they failed to realize was that X is not found in any possible commodity or object, but in the decisions each of us makes. X does not equal wealth, sex, or power, it equals acting based on your own goals and aspirations. X is only found when you break away from outside standards of what happiness is, and start doing what is best for you and what you truly desire to do.
Djonic 1 / 5  
Nov 10, 2010   #2
Very clever idea!
I really like the use of "x". I think it just needs to be introduced a little more clearly in the intro, perhaps defining what X is to you earlier on.

as far as grammar and diction go...:
change overweight to obesity
change seducing to seductive
change shinning to shining

I have an idea you can use it if you would like, if not just toss it aside. Here goes:
"I found that X can never be truly defined, because it can only be realized through individuals attempts to benefit themselves and others; in other words X is the journey that we all take while trying to uncover X itself."

I dunno its just a thought. Its not worded very well but I think you get what i'm saying. Anyways the essay is great!
lizziezhou 6 / 16  
Nov 10, 2010   #3
while people find it hard to define X, X's been defined, mostly:changes...things like that...
i think the reasoning of X is well-done!!
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Nov 17, 2010   #4
. In other words, X is perfection, balance, and peace all rolled into one concept.

Seems like these ideals are the constants that you use as reference points, and you have to use them to solve for x.

I was forced to accept that in life there is no single X that will make sense of everything around us and bring us balance.---At this part, you start telling about the experience of realizing that x was a plurality of things, but you did not explain HOW you came to this conclusion about the plurality of x.

It seems wrong that happiness is discussed in all paragraphs except the intro.

Again, I devoted my undivided attention to shinning light on its nature, and again I stumbled into baffling complexities. --- this is some very impressive writing...

OP MatWirth 3 / 4  
Nov 25, 2010   #5
Thanks for your corrections, I tried to correct the essay but ended up making it longer. Any more feedback is greatly appreciated, especially on how to shorten the essay. Thanks again

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