While most University seniors are preoccupied with writing their theses and finding jobs, John Staropoli '98 has found time to examine the decline of the American ethos.
Staropoli recently wrote a book titled "Desiderata II and Other Thoughts on Restoring the American Ethos," which was published by Vantage Press in November. He described the book as a "collection of (his) thoughts" about the beauty and "dark undercurrents" of American society. The book also discusses how the United States may restore a sense of community.
The molecular biology major said he had a "humanistic impulse" to write the book and called the process a "learning experience." The project began the summer after his sophomore year, when he found a copy of Max Ehrmann's poem "Desiderata" on his roommate's desk.
Staropoli described his writing style as "wacked-out," ranging from "stream-of-consciousness" to the "dialectic." He said his writing was influence by Plato, Dante, Goethe, Montaigne, Cervantes, Freud, Kant and the Bible.
He said that personal experience, travel, family, professors and students at the University contributed to his "pretty conservative" thoughts.
The book focuses on Staropoli's evolving perception of the United States. As a child, he viewed the nation's structure as perfect. He used the Jefferson Memorial as a metaphor of the symmetry and order of America.
As he matured, he began to detect inherent problems in American society. The nation seemed to be well-formed on the outside but hid severe problems at its core. He said he termed this view the "inside-out" Silenus because the character of the nation is opposite to what the character Silenus in Plato's "Symposium" represents, Staropoli explained.
The educational system's emphasis on sex education and the increasing lack of respect students show for teachers are some of the problems Staropoli identifies in America. He also cited drug abuse, which "robbed the nation's psyche," and discussed the influence of the media and advertising, the fragmentation of the family and the abuse of natural resources, among other issues.
Staropoli said he sees the American society and "self" in "constant flux," but believes there is a general societal equilibrium, much like the balance found in the fields of ecology and molecular biology.
"Desiderata II" urges Americans and University students to be morally responsible, to "speak their mind" and to realize that our society does have "much to treasure," he said.
Most important, Staropoli said, Americans must restore the "American ethos" that the founding fathers envisioned.
Staropoli's "Desiderata II and Other Thoughts on Restoring the American Ethos" can be found in the U-Store and other selected bookstores.