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A house lit from the inside

| Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If I had to sum up a theme that links all of my articles for The Observer this semester, I would sum it up in one word — change. This article is not meant to provide the casual reader with solutions to overhaul the problems and divisions in the political, economic and social spheres. Rather, it’s a plea for us to step outside the ways that we are used to seeing and dealing with things. This country seems to be at an important crossroads this holiday season. The G20 Summit could define the relations and global economics between the United States and impact the entire sphere of international relations. It seems like now, more than ever, the dialogue between both political parties is fractured and mono-dimensional. Every week, it is with great worry that I check the headlines of the major news networks expecting to see another tragedy or disaster. There is no argument that we need change. The point is not what those concrete changes are, but rather the mechanism of how we get there. Fundamentally, the only way we will exact change is if we escape the customary way of doing things and, in the simplest language possible, break out of the comfort zone.

I guarantee you that my house will be the darkest when I return for Christmas break. Bear with me for a moment. Walking down my street, my house will look like a black hole swallowed it, bookended between houses that look like winter palaces bedecked in lights. This is not the complete story. People who know my family and I know that when they step inside our house, as if entering a geode rock formation, you will be greeted by the borderline-extreme radiance of Christmas and Hanukkah decoration that we set up on the inside. Today happens to be the third night of Hanukkah. It always seems like school is deliberately constructed to make me miss chocolate shekels and the lighting of the candles, and I am disappointed that I won’t come home in time for the kitchen to be filled with the scent of homemade latkes and play dreidel below the glow of our menorah. But every year without fail, when the holidays and breaks align perfectly, my family and I will set up our Christmas lights and have a menorah on our table.

Recalibrate and change what you know. Come together and think of new ways to the problems that undeniably exist in society today, and maybe we can walk past the dark alleyway and into the radiant geode. Start from the inside and it doesn’t matter if it looks like a house swallowed by a black hole, bookended by glossy decoration but nothing inside when you open the door.

On a much more local level, Notre Dame was chosen as the third seed in the College Football Playoff only a couple of days ago. While it might seem like a far-fetched connection to the idea of how change and opening up oneself to an overhaul can make positive difference, it is fundamentally connected to the ideas I am putting forth. Two years ago, after a disappointing 4-8 season and dysfunction from the top to the bottom in the football team, many were wondering whether or not Coach Brian Kelly would even return for another season. Recognizing that change was needed, Coach Kelly instigated top-down personnel changes and implemented modifications in practice and training camp. Kelly even switched quarterbacks midseason, realizing that flexibility would be the key to success. The result has been tremendous success and an undefeated season, something Notre Dame has not accomplished since 2012.

I end with another abstract example. As a Jew who celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, lights have a particular importance to me. Of course, there is the connection to family, good memories and the holiday season. To a Jew, this significance means even more, branching into the historical. Hanukkah, or “festival of lights,” commemorates the courage and tenacity of the Maccabees in ancient times as they reclaimed the Jewish Holy Temple from those who had desecrated it. Using a one-day supply of oil, they lit the menorah in the temple and it miraculously remained lit until they received new oil. Hanukkah lasts eight days to memorialize each day that the oil lasted. This holiday season, let us be the lights that cannot be extinguished. It is only those who dare to be different and dare to do something that upends the norm that define what the new norm looks like.

Whether you set up your lights on the outside of your house, on the inside or not at all, make it so that the odds do not define your decision. Do something different over break and use the tools we are learning here at Notre Dame to rethink convention. Make the new convention. Because then the lights won’t just last eight days, they’ll change the headlines and rework the political, economic and social spheres.

Gabriel Niforatos is a sophomore who has diverse interests ranging from political science to music. When he’s not at school, he is busy hiking and running in the New Mexico mountain range. His email is [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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