Proof of Your Existence By, Nicole Sintetos, Sydney Clarke, Hope Fowler

The “Proof of Existence” paper is a malleable Everest of sorts.  I used to offer this essay option to my freshmen and most responses involved an analysis of the concrete and (dare I say) the obvious: the car door dented with a lacrosse ball; the photograph hanging in a living room; the bird house made in the eighth grade.  Many students found the prompt to prove their existence straight-forward enough, if slightly onerous.

Yet, when I offered this assignment (originally adapted and/or stolen from the one and only Henry Walters) to my seniors in AP Literature, they looked at me as if they had seen a ghost. Indeed, as the question sunk in, one student asked in a panic, “wait, do I really exist” and proceeded to have a metaphysical crisis.

The point of the essay is open to interpretation—and hence a possible danger to the curious mind.  The form of response was as varied as each student’s content: Lillian Campbell wrote a Socratic dialogue, Ava Mackay-Smith produced a finely-worded philosophical rant,  and Maggie Ferguson limned a beautiful example of creative non-fiction in the guise of the scientific method. To me, the prompt encourages students to consider the radically ambiguous nature of the world; how belief and proof are often interchangeable; how a multitude of meanings can arise from the same source. 

Or, how the act of writing itself is all the proof one needs.

Sydney Clarke:

Yes, we all know from basic biology that tears evaporate and can seemingly leave no trace on our car windows after the sun comes out; maybe that’s the beauty in them. Maybe it’s that I can never forget the bright nights filled with firefly dances when I sat alone and cried because emotions were far from being described and words even farther from being comprehended. Tears, like cherries on a white-washed cloth, can soak into the consciousness in an undeniable way;  more so unbelievable for how something so sorrowful can still cleanse a mind more than a solemn prayer or a thoughtful meditation. 

Hope Fowler:

I am notional, an idea declared to be true, but not one with tangible qualities.

I come in various forms and am often altered to make a better story.

I have multiple truths through multiple memories:

       a glimpse of sorts at another form.

       at another self.