Tuesday, September 23, 2008

not only meaningful but sacred

traveling for the college so far this fall has made me deeply miss being a student. i don't mean that i don't love my job--rather, the opposite: that everywhere i go, i meet students who are on the brink of such a tremblingly exciting moment of their lives, and most of them don't even realize it. i didn't.

it makes me consider the thoughts that run through the minds of the students whom i meet. what about the ones who don't see college as a natural next step--not because they have other ambitions, but because they've been told that they're never going to amount to anything, or that they won't be supported in their efforts to get a college degree-financially or in spirit? what about those who really can't afford it? am i an elitist to feel sorry for these young people who won't be able to gain a degree?

being a graduate of a nationally ranked college myself, i of course have the biased opinion that, unless you are extremely motivated and talented, eschewing a college education is the equivalent of cutting off both of your hands. it doesn't mean that you can't succeed and have an incredible life--obviously a majority of the world does--but that so many doors will be closed to you unless you can prove through some other fashion that you've learned how to think. and yet, for all that my college fervently believes it can inspire young people to sense the world around them, i know that it's not the only means by which to do so, nor does every graduate leave with a profound concept of their place in the greater order. still, as one of my friends reflected when we were seniors, wondering why graduation was such a depressing prospect, college is "where you become who you're going to be."

another friend sent me a copy of the commencement speech of a writer who recently committed suicide, david foster wallace. i know--that's horrible, but his words were so haunting, not only because he said them before ending his own life, but because he grasped so clearly that an education--whether attained at college or in your back yard--is ultimately the culmination of your discovery that you alone hold the power to choose what direction your life will take:

"but if you've really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. it will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars -- compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things. not that that mystical stuff's necessarily true: the only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're going to try to see it. you get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. you get to decide what to worship..."

~ek-onkar satnam~

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it's not just for the classroom!