Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks–we will also find our path of authentic service in the world.
Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.
The winters will drive you crazy until you learn to get out into them.
Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.
Humility is the only lens though which great things can be seen–and once we have seen them, humility is the only posture possible.
We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold. We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are.
In my own life, as winters turn into spring, I find it not only hard to cope with mud but also hard to credit the small harbingers of larger life to come, hard to hope until the outcome is secure. Spring teaches me to look more carefully for the green stems of possibility; for the intuitive hunch that may turn into a larger insight, for the glance or touch that may thaw a frozen relationship, for the stranger’s act of kindness that makes the world seem hospitable again.
Eventually, I developed my own image of the “befriending” impulse behind my depression. Imagine that from early in my life, a friendly figure, standing a block away, was trying to get my attention by shouting my name, wanting to teach me some hard but healing truths about myself. But I– fearful of what I might hear or arrogantly trying to live without help or simply too busy with my ideas and ego and ethics to bother– ignored the shouts and walked away.So this figure, still with friendly intent, came closer and shouted more loudly, but I kept walking. Ever closer it came, close enough to tap me on the shoulder, but I walked on. Frustrated by my unresponsiveness, the figure threw stones at my back, then struck me with a stick, still wanting simply to get my attention. But despite the pain, I kept walking away. Over the years, the befriending intent of this figure never disapppeared but became obscured by the frustration cuased by my refusal to turn around. Since shouts and taps, stones and sticks had failed to do the trick, there was only one thing left: drop the nuclear bomb called depression on me, not with the intent to kill but as a last-ditch effort to get me to turn and ask the simple question, “What do you want?” When I was finally able to make the turn– and start to absorb and act on the self-knowledge that then became available to me– I began to get well. The figure calling to me all those years was, I believe, what Thomas Merton calls “true self.” This is not the ego self that wants to inflate us (or deflate us, another from of self-distortion), not the intellectual self that wants to hover above the mess of life in clear but ungrounded ideas, not the ethical self that wants to live by some abstract moral code. It is the self-planted in us by the God who made us in God’s own image– the self that wants nothing more, or less, than for us to be who we were created to be.
True self is true friend. One ignores or rejects such friendship only at one’s peril.
I want my inner truth to be the plumb line for the choices I make about my life – about the work that I do and how I do it, about the relationships I enter into and how I conduct them
As a young man, I yearned for the day when, rooted in the experience that comes only with age, I could do my work fearlessly. But today, in my mid-sixties, I realize that I will feel fear from time to time for the rest of my life. I may never get rid of my fear. But . . . I can learn to walk into it and through it whenever it rises up . . . naming the inner force that triggers . . . fear . . . Naming our fears aloud . . . is the first step toward transcending them.
The academic bias against subjectivity not only forces our students to write poorly (“It is believed…,” instead of, “I believe…”), it deforms their thinking about themselves and their world. In a single stroke, we delude our students into believing that bad prose turns opinions into facts and we alienate them from their own inner lives.”
Mentors and apprentices are partners in an ancient human dance, and one of teaching’s great rewards is the daily chance it gives us to get back on the dance floor. It is the dance of the spiraling generations, in which the old empower the young with their experience and the young empower the old with new life, reweaving the fabric of the human community as they touch and turn.”
Science requires an engagement with the world, a live encounter between the knower and the known.
A scholar is committed to building on knowledge that others have gathered, correcting it, confirming it, enlarging it.
We must come together in ways that respect the solitude of the soul that avoid the unconscious violence we do when we try to save each other that evoke our capacity to hold another life without dishonoring its mystery never trying to coerce the other into meeting our own needs.