Finalist Edward del’Etoile

While reading “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt, I found myself nearly lost, my mind wondering in a whirlwind of random thoughts until one of the chief metaphors snapped me back to reality. As a light bulb flickered above my head, I could immediately relate to the metaphor “The mind is divided, like a rider on an elephant, and the rider’s job is to serve the elephant.” Haidt expands on this metaphor by describing your brain as the rider, the rational, more conscious system. He then elaborates on the elephant, the part of you that is instinctive; the part feels pleasure and pain. This part he is referring to your body itself.


As this metaphor clicked in my head, I could relate it to the recent and important event in my life of moving away to college. I made the intuitive decision to live at school rather than commute. I knew that living on campus would not only help me thrive at school, but help me network with new people and also help me flourish from a young man to a responsible adult. As I packed my bags, I heard small footsteps approaching my door. The faint sound of sobbing grew louder. As I looked up, I saw my nine-year-old brother weeping uncontrollably. My elephant felt immediate pain and regret for leaving him and wanted to disconnect from the rider, to tum around and abandon the college journey. I then offered to go out and participate in his favorite activity, jumping on the trampoline. I felt that doing this would put him in a happy state of mind and help him to be open-minded, and absorb my explanation for leaving. Although he was now happy, I realized I was unable to justify my decision to him. I couldn’t explain to him how living at school is not only a fun experience, but also it helps you grow and mature as a human being. Unable to convey my thoughts, he finally accepted this fact and was able to cope with his emotions, only after I promised to return home on the weekends. Although he couldn’t see it, I was just as emotional as he was but I was able to rationalize my decision to myself and regain my self-control. While my initial response was to abandon my decision, I realized that to complete any journey, your body and mind need to work in unison, as do a rider and an elephant.

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