Hello! I’m glad you’re taking time out of your day to read this rather than using it as a napkin like most students. Bless your heart. Anyhoo, it’s another year at the University of Michigan and those of us at the Daily are just as excited as you are. We’ll get to today’s topic in a moment, but just how are you?

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Did you have a nice summer? Get all your books? Hey, good for you! Did you decide on that major yet? Will you still be going to model railroad club on Tuesdays? Oh, you’re president of the model railroad club? My, my. It does sound interesting. Anyway, is there any inherent meaning to your existence that gives you cause to continue living or are you just kidding yourself?

Oh dear, don’t look like that. Didn’t you know about the current theme semester for the College of Literature, Science and the Arts? It’s called “What Makes Life Worth Living?” and has already accounted for a 36-percent drop in Dentistry majors. But don’t worry if you don’t know the answers yet. Just yesterday I went to the library and poured over Plato and Aristotle and Hume and Nietzsche and Confucius and Socrates and Kant and Bob and Tom before asking a nice old lady called Ethel what she thought life was all about who stared at me with intense seriousness before answering, “I don’t know. But can you tell me how to make a Facebook?”

Well, to be honest, I didn’t do all of that. I made it up, actually. I just want to stress that the meaning of life has been debated for thousands of years by bajillions of people much smarter than you or me and we still haven’t really reached a definitive answer. At the same time, we’re faced with the very real possibility that at the end of our own lives, when we are supposed to have figured out a few things, the world will have changed completely and we’ll have to catch up all over again. That’s what the whole Ethel thing was about — how she couldn’t operate computers. Did you get it? No? Isn’t “Ethel” a funny name, though?

I don’t mean to be cynical, really. It’s charming that the University is trying to hold students’ attention by asking them the big questions. The question. I’m sure there are some students, like those in fraternities or those considering careers in advertising, that have never thought to ask themselves such a question. I’m just a little worried — us Daily columnists are often worried about one thing or another, it’s a real burden — that the University is getting a bit sensational with the current theme semester.

I suppose my first objection to “What Makes Life Worth Living?” is the fact that the first event to kick off such an ambitious intellectual topic is a screening of “The Wizard of Oz,” tonight at 8 p.m. in the Keene Auditorium of the Residential College. Well, thank goodness. You might want to show up at seven, just in case it gets packed, and for heaven’s sakes pay attention this time! When you watched it last you obviously missed the scene in which the secret of life is revealed. (It’s the one with the flying monkeys, which is a statement on evolution, I think.)

The events get better, to be fair. (Check out wmlwl.com for all the info.) There will be dance performances and poetry readings and lectures about the Peace Corps and tours of the art museum, but in three months you won’t know much more about life or what you want out of it than you do now, I’m afraid. At least, that’s my guess. I imagine that takes a little more than a semester, and maybe more than a lifetime.

But I must applaud the University for being a bit bolder compared to last semester’s theme of “The Joys – and Sorrows – of Stamp Collecting.” No, I’m sorry, last semester was “Meaningful Objects: Museums in the Academy,” and it wasn’t completely boring. And I’ll admit that this semester’s theme will probably catch more students’ attention. I’m just miffed that there’s so much subjectivity – and perhaps meaningless – to the question of what gives life meaning.

At any rate, you should make an effort to attend some events this year. The University is getting desperate trying to attract your attention, and if you don’t show some interest next semester’s theme could very well be “Let’s Raise Your Tuition (More Than Usual) and THEN See If You’re Interested, Hm?” And please — please — if you know which scene of “The Wizard of Oz” contains the meaning of life, don’t hesitate to e-mail me.

Will Grundler is an assistant editorial page editor. He can be reached at wgru@umich.edu.

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