The Unexpected Worth of the GRE


Being wrong is the sweetest stab in the back.

Just like the GRE, you’re right or you’re wrong. It’s no less tricky out here either — you never stop getting fooled. The only difference is that every moment is a new question. Every second is no second chance. Every step is another rectangular “Continue” button reminiscent of 90’s internet in the top right corner.

Post-GRE, I take a car ride across town to restore my faith. Just like any other, I need the occasional day off of my faith, and it’s been quite a few days for me now.

Sometimes my faith surprises me. I express my faith everyday. My faith has transformed me, shaped me, saved me.

My faith is being wrong. My faith is irony. My faith is entropy and enjoying it. My faith is surprisingly precisely analogous to that time when I left my Samsung Galaxy SIII on the top of my car and drove off.

I have faith in the human condition — a restorative faith, a healing faith. I have faith that faith is constantly a collective forward step. Unless, of course, that’s not your paradigm. In the words of pastor, speaker, and author of What We Talk About When We Talk About God, Rob Bell,

We are both large and small, strong and weak, formidable and faint, reflecting the image of the divine, and formed from dust.

And thusly are we both intertwined together in the greater nature of things — the “good” and the “bad” altogether. The whole lot of us is commingling and evanescing together as I write this sentence. The purples, yellows, reds, and blues of humanity convene in a stream of color, discord, and unity.

A couple important qualifications must be made, however.

First qualification — and this is key — is that you’re the GRE to me. I don’t mean to offend (I presume I’m the same to you!), but simply offer up the possibility that perhaps faith is part of a broader narrative we Earthlings are all writing together. Regardless of faith, Faith, faith, or faith, the lenses through which we see the world are hard to change. If I try to look through the eyes of a Theravada Buddhist, I’ll likely be trying to force the proverbial square peg in the circular hole. And so your paradigm is as difficult for me to crack as the four-hour test was.

Second is the notion that there are people “of faith” and people lacking one. I am not trying to say that everyone has a faith. Rather, I do think that everyone is engaged in the intricate workings of a larger other: quite a few through their lens of spirituality, even more through their daily actions, countless through the use of their psyche. An example follows that humans are instinctual language speakers. It’s coded in our brains to learn grammar and syntax and vocabulary. To use such an extraordinary gift, a wonder of evolution beyond a doubt, is to participate in an act of something awe-inspiring enough through its sheer complexity to be on par with what we traditionally call ‘faith.’

For many and for me, that awe-inspiring, indiscernible thing is my secular faith.

All this being said, I think the ancient Vedas of South Asia had it right when they said that dawn verily is the head of the sacrificial horse. The sun is his eye; the wind, his breath. In my faitheistic interpretation, the paradigm of the dawn vs. the paradigm of the head, etc. are transcendent (in that they revere the otherworldliness of the dawn, sun, wind) and immanent (in that they revere the thisworldliness of the head, eye, breath), respectively. Both are simultaneously transcendent-immanent because the dawn is the head, the eye is the sun. Similarly, our views of faith are different, same, and different-same. Despite the tricky questions, garbled instructions, and black-and-white answers, faith is like the GRE: through some occult operation, everything boils down to three scores.

And that’s why being wrong is the sweetest stab in the back. Because someone else is right, so are you.

Author: Erik Fruth

Erik lived in Shanghai while studying Mandarin and teaching English. He moved home to continue writing and working and then relocated to Berlin to daydream about last summer.