Last week, I graduated from high school. At this point, I’m inclined to say that I am excited to attend college in the fall though I am not sure if I actually feel that way or if I have been conditioned to say that in the seemingly hundreds of conversations I have had with inquisitive adults. But even then, if you think about it, maybe those adults are also conditioned to asking those generic questions which supersede any genuine interest in what I am doing with my life. But I digress.
Anxiety that comes as a result of change can manifest itself in many ways, and mine was the drab realization that I would cease to have frequent writing assignments from my English teacher. As a result, I have decided to take on his assignment to reflect on my high school career. The heart of this post is to have a Janus-faced outlook on my situation: to look forward to the future as well as back to the past. This couldn’t be complete without homage to Janus, the Roman god of doors, beginnings, and other things whose iconic two faces face opposite directions.
Its interesting how little you hear about how frightening this image is. And yes, I am by all means trying to critique the Romans because I think that they could have been a bit more creative. Personally, I prefer the Greek and Roman concept of the mos maiorum. This set of values is best described by the image of a rower. He rows forward while his gaze is directed backwards. He uses the past as a way to navigate the future. Though that may be more of a philosophy of progress rather than an outlook on life, I do find it more appealing than a man with two faces on his head. But I digress.
My education prior to graduation consisted of two schools, The Providence Christian School of Texas (where I attended from the age of five to fourteen) and The Cambridge School of Dallas (where I attended from age fourteen to eighteen). At Providence, that which I took away from the school as a human and not as an informational basket is contained in the motto: esse quam videri, which translates to be rather than to seem. There is a sense of simplemindedness and deliberateness in this motto (unlike our friend Janus) which should be quite indicative of all education. It is true that this outlook on life (to appear no better than you are) comes out of Biblical teaching, but I think that this should be true for all schools. An essential part of education should not be primarily in complexities, but in teaching a person to be one person. Only after development of the person should educational complexities begin their raid on the young mind. And for better or for worse, this is the way my high school began. I had always been completely on board with the whole “to be rather than to seem” train, and this was not always helpful to my popularity. There were times when I felt the obligation to convey my emotions as visibly as possible with my demeanor and body language. As a result, I have been subjected to many a tantalizing conversation with teachers and peers about my current well-being, while I was “too concerned” with my existential well-being.
I thought of the potential of this blog post while our class salutatorian gave his speech at our graduation. Since his job is to recount the past of the high school, I thought perhaps I could use parts of his speech in my own post. Sadly, his material is far out of my reach. He spoke of camaraderie by means of a class-designed coin-flipping tournament that “we” cheered for. Though his speech was redeemable because he was systematic in the way he spoke, I do not want to be known for enthusiasm for something that does not matter. Besides, I’m just recovering from being a “sports hater” primarily because the Greeks invented the Olympics to showcase the beauty of the human body in form and secondarily because there are some stylish athletes out there… I digress.
I visited the my high school for an orientation a week before classes started and a certain young lady caught my attention. I began to think of the prospects of romance. The night after the first day of school, there was a school wide ceremony in which all the students sang the hymn Be Thou My Vision. I’d like to say that my high school career for me as a person was at its core finding the proper place for romance and Christ in my life. Though I never ended up dating that particular girl and though I actually did not end up dating any girls in my high school career, I would like to think that the colossal vitality of my readiness for romance was unmet by any boy in my grade. I know there is no way to quantify and prove that claim, I’m not sure if that is something that I should be proud of, and I’m only confident in making the claim because I am positive none of the boys in my grade will read this. Nevertheless I do believe that when you pay attention to the importance of earthly relationships, you are more attune to the divine romance with Jesus prophesied about in Revelation. I like to call that term “romantic readiness” and it’s what I wrote my capstone senior thesis about. On the other hand, I spent a great deal of my days in high school thinking about how to properly have Christ be my vision and what that looked like in different scenarios. This outlook took various extremes resulting in me rightly blamed as being “too preachy” in my academic papers; in times of deficiency, I found myself at La Madeline in the pouring rain next to a fire arguing with a classmate that there was no deeper meaning to Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. I believe that no man should be so presumptuous at to think that he has figured out “the way” to integrate his faith and his learning because there are many ways and none of them are perfect.
However, a way of seeing the world through the lens of the Bible and the Church is something I want to continue in college. This is actually why I have chosen to go to my college because it is what I love to do. I have picked Biola University in La Mirada, CA., because in my estimation, it is the best possible place where I can learn to see the world through the lens of the Bible and the Church. I will be doing this by means of their great text program, Torrey Honors Institute, in which my general education will consist of studying works that have widely impacted the world and the Christian faith. The way we will study these works is through Socratic-style discussion and through writing papers. This is the point at which part of me begins to be anxious about the future. I want to actually make money when I graduate college, but at the same time I don’t know how that is entirely possible if I have a philosophy, theology, or English major. The bottom line is that I will study at Biola University to become good at what matters most to me. Though I may not make as much money as some of my classmates, I dare not lead an existence without an adequate study of literature, philosophy, and theology. I think those three subjects matter most to my existential well-being. Besides, studying what is important to you and what you enjoy is what education should be for. Higher education should be the means by which you focus on what you want to do with the rest of your life. This is consistent with what I said above about the simplicity of education. At a certain point, it is foolish for the student to pursue something that is not important to him.
[Now I’d like to apologize to all math and science classes for the lack of care I have given you: I recognize that you are a pathway to the good, true, and beautiful but I have chosen another pathway to knowledge.]
And besides, I’d like to think that the future matters more about my demeanor as I pass through time than the job that I go to every day. After all, I’ve been watching Fox’s New Girl lately featuring four adults living in an apartment in their thirties, and I’ve realized that if these people are any indication of the way all adults are, then switching jobs and pursuits is completely normal.
Last Thursday, I stood up in the front pew and walked to the podium. The only clothing visible other than a cap and gown was a sleek pair of black Chelsea boots bought with my first work paycheck and a simple green necktie with the Welsh pendragon embroidered in the center. I turned to Be Thou my Vision in the hymnal and motioned for the congregation to stand and sing. Tubing and mostly shouting for two hours down Pecan Creek on the outskirts of Leaky, Tx. with 25 other seniors two days beforehand hadn’t exactly enhanced my prospects of having a beautiful voice with which to lead the congregation, so I was pleased when the organ drowned out the sound of my voice. I looked up and gazed at the rose window with gossamer streams of light struggling through it somewhere in the middle of the second verse so I would have something to write about here, but I quickly grounded my eyes again because apparently I haven’t memorized our school hymn in my four years of high school. But isn’t that the way it should be? Theres always something more to internalize about making Christ one’s vision and that’s what I want my future to be as a student.