Tuesday, July 1, 2014

encyclopedic walls surround us

We all gathered in this subterranean cave,  where three men stood guard over the collective wisdom of the ages.
In the midst of them sat a lone man, a very young man in their eyes, but not so to us.
And the man added to their riches a bit of his own knowledge.
Knowledge he had woven from the words of those who had gone before him.
This was a man who carried his mentors, who honored them in his words, in his writings.
And now, these three wise old men listened to him speak, nodding along quietly, knowingly, as my mother used to do as I gingerly worked my way through a geometry proof, step-by-step, wary of going awry.
One of them watched with more careful attention: the young man's dissertation director. As Gandalf guided Aragorn, this sage had directed his pupil to this moment. Here, in the intellectual arena, the champion had to prove his worth, to show that he was a true ranger of the north, worthy of inclusion in the halls of kings.
There are moments in life where you feel the dusty ordinary daily world being pulled back, and the Real World shining through.
This was one of those moments, where a shiver of reality ran up and down my spine.
This was a moment that seemed to matter.
Not because the goal of all our lives is to receive a doctorate degree, to ascend to the summit of the mountain of education, and declare oneself king of the hill, but because there are very few moments in our modern world where we feel the weight of the ancients.
There are so very few moments we can feel connected to the traditions of our hazy human past.
But one of the rare and beautiful monuments that preserves the history of humanity is certainly academia.
As we gathered in that basement, I felt comforted.
Here were gathered men who were truly sane, whose minds were full of truth, to whom the cares of the changing world did not strike so deeply.
For they understood the eternal Thing underneath all the rushing, ephemeral things of our today. 
Inside their heads were works of poets and prophets, seers and sages, and, God willing, they would never let them be forgotten.
In that cave, the great gravity and grandeur of education, the solemnity of knowledge, was driven home to me.
Perhaps to these men, perhaps they could look on wisdom and call her a sister and understanding their dear friend. And even if that is too bold a claim for even those few to make, their lives were clearly striving towards that goal.
In that cave we were all encouraged, encouraged to find understanding and call her friend. 
Bolstered by a vision of the world that resonated in our deepest hearts, we could walk into the light of the sunlit world believing that there were still men who walked the earth who sought truth above all things.
Men who believed that the human mind is capable of great things, and strove to achieve them.
Men who know our most precious treasures are the stories of our elders, and who seek to retell them, to keep their memories alive.
Some of us discover find knowledge of the Thing underneath all things through the music of the spheres manifest within our ears, or the colors of the sunset, but there are some who find them in the words that spin around in our brains.
And wisdom is born in that moment when we listen to the young explain to the old something new, woven out of something ancient which has never been seen before.

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