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5.25.2013

For Graduates

Thomas Merton writes the following in his book Love and Living (forgive all the elliptical breaks):


The purpose of education is to show a person how to define himself authentically and spontaneously in relation to his world....The function of a university is, then, first of all to help the student to discover himself: to recognize himself, and to identify who it is that chooses.

...This inner identity is not “found” as an object, but is the very self that finds. It is lost when it forgets to find, when it does not know how to seek, or when it seeks itself as an object....Hence the paradox that it finds best when it stops seeking: and the graduate level of learning is when one learns to sit still and be what one has become, which is what one does not know and does not need to know....

Education in this sense means more than learning; and for such education, one is awarded no degree. One graduates by rising from the dead.

Thinking about this, I only know what he means because I have experienced it, in the breathing autumn leaves, the stone city buildings that first trip into Chicago, the small daisy rising from the Scottish soil. Those moments I was most myself were the moments I was acutely aware of life, beauty, existence, creation, the world. 

It is my goal then to make a practice of this. To make it a way of life. I do not know if it's possible, but Merton seems to imply that it might be.

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