March 2, 2012

Retreats and Robots

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.

As a first year student walking onto campus for the first time almost four years ago, I wanted to change the world. I wanted to learn about the tools needed to achieve world peace, cure cancer and end poverty and hunger.  I remember going through orientation thinking that college would teach me everything I needed to know about life and about being a part of the “real world” as first years like to call it.

In the three and a half years I’ve been at Lafayette, I have not learned how to do any of these thingsIt seems inevitable that as one goes through college, one becomes less idealistic and more practical. You begin to think – I can’t end all the world’s hunger because there are too many hungry people. I can’t achieve world peace because there are too many wars and terrorists. For a while, I felt that way as well. I found all my idealism and optimism slowly retreating, to be replaced by a reserved pessimism about life.

However, this semester has done much to reaffirm my faith in

One of the activities at the Retreat

Lafayette students and by extension our wider community as well. From Feb 24th – 26th, I was lucky enough to be invited to attend this year’s Lafayette Posse Plus Retreat as a guest or a “plus” of a current Posse scholar. I have wanted to go on this retreat for a while, but every year something always came up and I couldn’t do it. This year, I promised myself I would keep my weekend free, no matter what. The Posse Foundation identifies public high school students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential that may have been overlooked by traditional college selection processes and offers them a leadership scholarship which covers tuition for four years. Lafayette College is home to two such Posses – one from NYC and one from

Participants at the Retreat engaging in a free-writing assignment

Washington DC. This year’s retreat focused on the topic of Gender and Sexuality. The topic and the discussions definitely challenged people’s beliefs and convictions. There were parts of the retreat that were difficult and uncomfortable. Parts that made people laugh out loud and cry their eyes out in the same session. But sitting in the bus back to Lafayette on Sunday, I realized that even though it might not be possible to cure all of the world’s problems with my college degree, I can still make a positive influence on someone’s life.


Poster for Rossum's Universal Robots

Wednesday night, I attended a production of a new play at the Williams Center for the Arts. The College Theater Dept. produced a science fiction play titled Rossum’s Universal Robots. This play challenged my ideas of what a utopian society would look like and how this utopia never works out the way we want it to. The play begins in a factory that makes artificial people called “robots” who look exactly like humans but who cannot experience emotion. The robots seem happy

A scene from the robot rebellion

to work for humans, although that soon changes and a hostile robot rebellion leads to the extinction of the human race, save for one employee of the original company that manufactured the first robots. The end of the play showed two robots being able to experience the human emotion of love for the first time. Even in the dystopian picture it painted of life, there was still hope and love.

After watching this play and attending the Posse Plus Retreat, I was filled with the same excitement that I had right before I came to Lafayette for the first time. I’m here to learn the tools to make a difference in the world. It might not be a big difference. I might not achieve world peace or stop terrorism. What I can do is use my privilege to make small changes in the world.

posted in Ryan Shroff


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