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.
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.
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.