Our lives inevitably entwined



Tom Barrett

On March 12, 2004, Michael Partipilo, a high school classmate of mine, was struck by a drunk driver just days after his seventeenth birthday and getting his license. That Friday night, he was driving home from a local Blockbuster when the heavily intoxicated Philip Gonzalez blew past a line of cars stopped at a red light and slammed into the side of Michael’s SUV, sending his vehicle tumbling and rendering him brain-dead.  Two days later in the hospital, Michael was pulled off life support. 

In all likelihood, Philip Gonzalez – who was high and drunk out of his mind – did not think about the life he would take when he got behind the wheel that night.  He did not know that he would kill the only son of Michael and Corazon Partipilo, a motivated young man and an aspiring lawyer.  Gonzalez, however, was no stranger to dangerously reckless driving habits. Before that night, he had been convicted of five DWI charges since 1979 as well as involved in nine other collisions.  On March 12, his gross negligence would reach a new peak and would affect Michael and the lives of all those who knew him.

While this may be an extreme example, this story can teach us an important lesson that Mr. Gonzalez seems to have forgotten on that dreadful night: our lives and actions are unavoidably connected to those in the world around us.  As alone as we may feel and as disconnected as we may seem from the outside world at times, there is no escaping the fact that we human beings are social creatures.  Everything we own – our clothes, food, iPods, cars and so on – has only been made ours because of the sweat of others’ labor.  Our education has been made possible by our many, many teachers sharing the knowledge that has been shared with them.  Even in our earliest years of life we would not have survived infancy without the care of others nor would we have learned the most basic of survival skills.

For better or for worse, our lives are inextricably linked to those of others and, whether we want to admit it or not, we are dependent on our fellow human beings.  Because of our natural connection to the people around us, our choices and actions carry weight, and with that weight comes a certain responsibility.  We must be mindful of ourselves and what we choose to do lest we find ourselves sliding down a slippery slope of destructive behavior.  As we have seen with my classmate Michael and Mr. Gonzalez, the consequences of our apathy can be all too real.

Last semester, I wrote about finding happiness and satisfaction with life, but my reflections tended to focus on our lives as individuals.  Those columns neglected an unavoidably huge factor in our everyday lives: other people.  This semester, I want to fill in the missing half of the equation. 

As difficult as it may be to deal with other people and as inconsiderate, annoying or downright cruel as they can be, we must remember that we human beings are social creatures.  As much as we may desire the solace of solitude, we must realize we are never alone, nor are we meant to be. 

We need others not only for survival, but also if we wish to thrive and flourish fully as individuals.  When we live solely for ourselves, we cut ourselves off from half of our existence.  We run the risk of forgetting our responsibility to our fellow man, and – like Mr. Gonzalez – causing harm to those who do not deserve it.  Our lives are meant to be shared, and in a positive way.  Only when we break down the barriers separating us from others can we realize our goal of true human satisfaction.


Tom Barrett is a senior philosophy major from Colonia, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].