Monday, July 25, 2005

FOCUSING ON THE RIGHT THINGS

I ran across this graduation addresss on The Ashbrook Institute's site. Many of us have heard the parable of the workers on the cathedral; the first worker is breaking breaking bricks, the second is making a living, but the third is building a cathedral. In reference to school:
I wonder how our students would describe the work they did at Ridgeview. For they did have to work, you know. We do not give degrees lightly at this school. How would they describe the many, many hours they spent at home, reading and writing and preparing for the following day’s lessons? An ordinary sort of student might say, "I am doing homework." A better sort of student, perhaps even the "honor roll student" we read so much about on bumper stickers, might say, "I am trying to make good grades." But our students, perhaps not at first, but certainly by now, might have rather different answers to the questions parents ask to keep up with their children. "Josh, it’s time for dinner; what are you doing up there in your room?" "Ben, why were you up so late last night? Your light was still on at eleven." "Chad, what are you working on now?" "Kristen, you seem preoccupied; what’s on your mind?" Their answers: "Mom, I’m trying to figure out why the Russian people would have allowed themselves to be ruled over by such cruel tyrants and by such a perverse ideology." "Dad, I can’t figure out why Kurtz has no self-control, no regard for life, why he is a hollow man." "Oh, nothing really, Mom. I’m writing a paper on these rules and these principles of morality C. S. Lewis calls The Tao. I think he means a combination of conscience and tradition, but I haven’t started my paper yet, so I’m not sure." "You wouldn’t believe what we’re learning about in biology: these emergent diseases that can wipe out entire populations because people have not yet developed an immunity. That’s scary." These various responses add up, if I am not mistaken, to one general answer that tells us what our hard-working students have been doing with their books day in and day out, night in and night out, for these years. They have been trying to understand the nature of man and the nature of the universe. They have been building cathedrals of the mind and spirit: cathedrals not to serve as mere monuments and museums, relics, if you will, like most of the cathedrals now in Europe, but cathedrals in which to live and work and worship, cathedrals in which they have learned how to know and to serve the good and the beautiful and the true.

It's an absolutely engaging address. If I were in a school, I would want to read it during freshman orientation. That's the group that needs to hear the message.

Life is about the daily things, yes. But, more importantly, what gives a life VALUE is the fact that it's about more than daily things. It's about the message underlying the words, it's about the reason we sacrafice for those we love (and that includes the love a soldier has for his fellow soldiers), it's why we hang in there during heart-sickeningly difficult times with spouse or children.

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