Essay/Term paper: Narrative-'something in your life you experienced that change
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Nothing Can Bring You Peace But Yourself
"Nothing can bring you peace but yourself." I am thinking about the time when my best
friend died, and when I stopped being myself and my life started going to hell.
It happened maybe two or three years ago. The day is very clear in my memory. The
weather was cold and nasty. The monotonous rain made everything outside look gray. I
was at home, waiting for my girlfriend to arrive. I was sitting on the couch drinking hot tea
and feeling warm and cozy. My dog was there too, I remember. We were watching a talk
show, but I was not paying much attention to what was going on. All I cared about was my
girlfriend was coming home and that we would be able to see each other again. She had left
only four weeks earlier, but I had already missed her greatly. We had been friends since the
9th grade. In the beginning we were enemies; we hated each other. Oh, how we fought!
One time she accused me of taking her purse, knowing what a notorious prankster I was, even
though I had no idea what she was talking about. Later she found her purse in her friends
locker. It seems she had forgotten she had put it there. This turned out to be the first, but
not the last, accident that would occur. What didn't we argue about? After about, four
years, we became the best friends ever. We were perfectly compatible with each other. We
began spending all our time together. We were vital to each other. I came to know each
and every detail about her life as she did about mine. It was the most enduring friendship of
I looked at the clock above my head. Six fifty. She was supposed to arrive at five o'clock.
I felt uncomfortable, some weird feeling crawled around my heart. I did not understand it.
I waited and waited. It was dark already and I was afraid of being in solitude. I couldn't
stand it anymore. Seven o"clock.
The phone rang and it startled me. Who might it be? I wasn't expecting a phone call from
anyone. I got up from the couch and picked up the phone. "Who is this" said the voice
flatly. I answered him and asked how I could help him. I didn't know anything yet, but my
spine felt cold and I had an irrational feeling of fear. "I am Detective James," said the man,
"and I have to tell you that...". He told me she was dead. A car wreck. He wanted me to
come to the hospital. Her family had died too.
I hung up the phone and felt immobile. His words were like a cold shower, a crash,
whatever you want to call it, but as I felt, it was the end, that line which separates life and
death and I stepped over it. My memories and feelings were erased and my life was
amorphous. I no longer cared about anything and nobody- friends, family, or strangers -
could help me. I mechanically did whatever they wanted me to do, but I was immune to
their advise and nothing could illuminate my life. I thought my life was over, that it was
empty. I would never see her again, and we would never hear each other's laughter again.
She died and part of me died with her.
Life went on lifelessly. Nothing was important to me. After awhile I felt that I wanted
someone to help me, to pull me out of my hole. But it was hard to admit, nobody could. I
couldn't find peace within myself. At some point I felt like standing up and screaming
"HELP." Some people tried to help me, but they could not. I don't think they understood
what I needed. Time went on and life did too. I didn't find any mortal to help me, but I
found a great supporter, a benefactor in myself. I didn't have to go anywhere but within
myself. I didn't have to ask anyone but myself. This self helped me and brought me back to
earth, to the world with sun and happiness. It soothed the pain in my heart and healed my
soul. I talked to myself and realized what I wanted and what I needed in my life. As I see
it, I found myself in myself.
Since then I always turn for help, not to a doctor, but to my own self, and I always find
exactly what I need there. I learned the lesson.
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In a time when optimism about international affairs is low and scepticism is rife about the possibilities of extending international cooperation, Charles Kupchan has written quite a hopeful book. He asks what makes former enemies into friends, and keeps them friends. One influential view sees international politics as ruled by rivalry and fear. No state dare trust another, and if it wishes for peace, must prepare for war. But in many parts of the world, including Europe, which were once subject to repeated and widespread conflict, peace is now the normal state of affairs, and it has become lasting. A zone of peace does not just mean the absence of conflict, but the creation of a state of affairs in which war becomes unthinkable.
Such zones of peace have often been explained as the result of the spread of democracy or the growth of trade. Kupchan agrees that both may be important in consolidating a zone of peace, but argues that they cannot bring it about. That needs a political intervention. The book is devoted to exploring the conditions under which a stable peace between two former adversaries or potential adversaries emerges and becomes enduring.
The first step is the most important. There has to be a unilateral act by the stronger power to accommodate the interests of its weaker rival. This sends a signal that builds trust and encourages a process of reciprocal restraint and dialogue. Kupchan illustrates the process tellingly via the 1990 film The Hunt for Red October, in which the commander of the US submarine, believing that the Soviet submarine he is tracking may defect, exposes his position and by doing so makes himself vulnerable to attack. But this is the key to gaining the trust of his adversary and initiating a process of dialogue that ensures a peaceful outcome.
Once a rapprochement has been established, old adversaries can come to see each other very differently. This is easiest, as Kupchan shows, where states have accountable governments and the checks and balances of a constitutional system, and when their social orders and cultures are compatible. Imagined communities do not only help to create nation states, they also play a crucial role in creating stable zones of peace. But authoritarian governments are also able to make peace, as Brazil and Argentina demonstrated in the 1980s, so long as the stronger power makes a strategic concession to begin the process. If the weaker power makes a concession, it may be interpreted as a sign of weakness, and nothing lasting may result.
Most of the book is taken up with detailed case studies, showing how rapprochement can lead on to security communities and even, in a few instances, to full federal unions. Zones of stable peace are fragile, and gains can be quickly reversed or the process can become deadlocked. Politics is always at the heart of this. The process of European integration has often been regarded as primarily driven by economics rather than politics. But, as Kupchan points out, the economic integration depended on the prior rapprochement between France and Germany. The European Union is currently in trouble, not least over the euro, because economic integration has moved ahead of political integration.
Kupchan analyses a number of examples of rapprochement between former enemies in which conflicts were overcome and a lasting zone of peace created. Particularly telling are the case studies of Britain and the US, Brazil and Argentina, and Norway and Sweden. War is no longer thinkable between these former rivals, and the situation seems as permanent as anything ever is in international politics. The contrast with Greece and Turkey or Israel and Syria is marked. In other cases alliances are formed that seem to herald a lasting relationship but that subsequently break down, such as the Concert of Europe after the Napoleonic Wars, which lasted three decades, and the Anglo-Japanese alliance at the start of the 20th century.
Nothing in this book suggests that the achievement of zones of peace is a one-way street. Friendships can unravel if circumstances change, and conflict can re-emerge, but what Kupchan does show in a rich and persuasive analysis is that parts of the world once riven by conflict have now achieved a stable peace rooted in institutions and identities as well as strategic calculations. The task of extending this process is an urgent one. Eliminating the threat of renewed geopolitical competition is not the only condition for building the cooperative structures that are necessary to tackle the many challenges that human societies face in the 21st century, but it is a necessary one.
How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace
By Charles A. Kupchan
Princeton University Press 448pp, £20.95
Published 17 March 2010