Letter to a graduate
From 2005-12 I was a high school Latin teacher in Loudoun County. One of my former students graduated this week and, as a graduation gift, I wrote him a letter summarizing what I have learned about life, most of which has been spent in spiritual development. My column this month is an adaptation of what I wrote to him (also known as a “twofer”)
“Joey” here are the fruits of the last one hundred ten years of my life. I hope they serve as helpful guideposts through your life’s ebb and flow in the years ahead.
First of all, the American Dream can turn out to be a mirage. There is the old saying about the midlifer who spent his twenties and thirties climbing the ladder only to discover it was against the wrong wall. Make your early life choices based on your true passion rooted in whatever wisdom you have managed to muster up to this point. Resist the insistence of your cultural conditioning that tells you what matters is making money, the more, the better. Some call this following your Heart Song. Listen to your heart. Keep your own counsel.
Be passionate but do not be driven. The latter leads to a worn out engine. Passion arises from your True Self; drivenness comes from the Ego Self.
Adopt a simple lifestyle. It leaves time for what is important in life. You are not your job.
You would never know it from the homage paid to the saying, “Cogito ergo sum”, I think therefore I am, but in fact the mind is the servant of the heart. The saying would be better “Amo ergo sum”, I love therefore I am.
We need opportunities to forgive; it is that capacity which best expands our own hearts. With that in mind, follow the ancient dictum of Christianity, “Love your enemies”.
Take care of your soul as well as your body. Adopt a daily spiritual practice.
Western industrial capitalism has planted disdain for nature in our collective psyches. We are now paying the price in climate change and extreme weather. Befriend nature. As our most ancient ancestors knew, everything in nature is alive. Everything! Even the rocks? Yes! The mechanistic view of the universe is mistaken.
Some things that happen to you may seem perverse. Shakespeare’s “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” If you hold them up to the Light though, you may discover that they were Providential.
The Sufis, the mystical sect of Islam, believed that the essence of God is Laughter.
The essence of Buddhism is: Not Always So.