Transition Quilt Talk: SOAR
Look at these verbs. We all have to TRY so hard the first 20 years of our lives to GET attention. We want to HAVE good grades, to MAKE the team, and to IMPRESS our friends. But for the next hour I want everyone seated in this room, to GIVE me your attention. It’s a big ask, but I will HONOR your time to the best of my ability.
We live in a world of constant chaos. For the next hour I want you to cut your media off, your phones, your tablets, silence them, put it away, off your body if you can, certainly out of your hand. I am speaking to both parents and students alike. That means you. Some of you have a certain level of addiction to these devises and if you are not careful your phone will start to use you, instead of you using your phone. It’s like a pack of cigarettes to a smoker, a pint of liquor to an alcoholic, a crack pipe for an addict. Your first college class is about to begin for parents and students alike, so put your tech away. I’ll wait……..
You feel a bit disconnected, a little vulnerable, a little alone huh? Well now you are ready to listen and learning has a chance to grow. Like a dandelion growing in a crack in the asphalt, learning can happen anywhere, given a little water and a little light; and a little quiet.
Everything is waiting, waiting for you to grow into your reality.
The first word you’ll learn this afternoon is FUNGIBLE. A 12 pack of Cokes are fungible, a bag of peppermint candies are fungible, and the wooden matches in this box are fungible. Define: THE SAME. Although you have much in common with the other parents and first year students in this auditorium, you are not fungible. Your dignity, your self-worth, and your sense of family are uniquely yours. Do not let anyone or any situation take that away from you. Like my father often told me, “Remember who you are and where you’re from.”
As students, your true potential is like this match. (Light the match.) Where did the flame come from? Well, the flame is already in the match. The flame to learn has got to come from you. You will come to understand this as “Intrinsic Motivation” vs “Extrinsic Motivation.”
When you are really engaged in learning anything, well that has to come from inside of you. The life that each of you is holding is in each of your hands.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the conversation.
And STOP thinking about your phone.
Although the Italian Renaissance took place 500 years ago, it is alive and well as one of the foundational Liberal Arts components of Louisburg College. An early Renaissance sculptor Donatello created a life-size figure of David which was done 75 years before the 16 foot tall version by Michelangelo which we all are familiar with. He spoke of it as being a model of the Renaissance state of mind where a person sees danger from the outside, yet handles themselves with calm, dignity, and self-control. The Louisburg College community will enable you to gain confidence in yourself. I make that commitment to you as a member of this community for 35 years now; yes my 1st year at Louisburg College was 1983. Your 1st semester will be my 71th. Each of you brings different gifts and learning tools to the table.
Our Faculty and Administrative Staff will help you understand these gifts and sharpen these tools. It is our honor and privilege to assist you young adults, as you find and focus your own individual voice.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the conversation.
And STOP thinking about your phone.
Etched into my memory is Jim Valvano’s acceptance speech about a dozen years ago at the ESPY Awards. He urged all of us to do three things each day in order to live a full life: to laugh, to think, and to care enough to cry.
The great mistake is to act out the drama of the learning of your life as if you were alone.
Our lives are told in our stories. These stories may be VISUAL as in my field of art, or PERFORMED as in athletics, music and drama, or ELECTRONIC as in computers, or LOGICAL and SEQUENTIAL as in science and math, or INTERPERSONAL as in sociology and psychology, or FINANCIAL as in business, or WRITTEN as in English class, or REFLECTED upon in your history and religion classes. Our lives are comprised of so many stories and it is so cool to realize how they are all intertwined.
Faculty members will teach you in particular areas of study. You will be evaluated on your FACILITY in these areas. Facility has to do with skill and talent. I believe though that in addition to practicing our skill, we should also understand the power of being AUTHENTIC. I find daily that folks are moved more by our AUTHENTICITY, than by any other trait. Two ideas from Dr. Maya Angelou, first, “Folks are always talking about you, may be good, maybe not so good, but they are always talking.” And the second,
“Long after you have forgotten a person’s name and what they said, you will still remember how they made you feel.”
Be authentic, be real. Be an active listener. Look people in the eye. Here is a game changer. When a teacher, or a Staff member, or a friend finishes talking, look at them in the eye for a couple of seconds, don’t say anything, just look at them and say, “This is what I heard you say.” Most of the time, we are not really listening to each other. I am just waiting for you to stop talking so I can start. I’m guilty and so are you.
Five centuries before the birth of Christ, Socrates defined a TEACHER as a Midwife to ideas. (Define Midwife) I really appreciate your listening to my remarks today. If you ever find yourself getting bored, it is surely a sign you are not living in the present moment. So stay with me. Today you all started taking ownership of your collegiate career. Ownership is what separates a FANTASY from a DREAM. You know the difference? A FANTASY is something you have. A DREAM is something you build. If you want your dreams to become true, you need to wake up and start building. That will start immediately tomorrow morning when you students take your placement tests in Math and English. Focus, take your time, and do your best. Think of all the folks that will be there with you, those who have supported you during your life. Make them proud by simply giving your best effort.
What is the difference between ENTERTAINMENT and EDUCATION? Entertainment can certainly be informative and Education at its best is certainly enjoyable. I believe though that we move from being entertained to being educated when we make one brave move. That move is to participate. PARTICIPATION is the key.
You parents and you young adults are in a period of TRANSITION. You are leaving the security and known quantity of a high school environment and reaching into the unknown of living and learning on your own in a college setting. The prefix “TRANS” is ripe with possibilities. If we can’t get the car to shift from 2nd to 3rd gear we are having a problem with what? TRANSMISSION When the Hispanic woman can’t understand what the insurance agent is trying to explain, then they need a what? TRANSLATOR When the lawyer has to refer back to the dialogue of the court trial she looks at the what? TRANSCRIPT And when we each go on vacation and we choose between car and bus or train or plane we are deciding on our mode of what? TRANSPORTATION
When you really think about it, our whole lives are spent in transition. You have crossed the border of graduating from High School and living away from home. Of course you will re-cross these boundaries many times but it will never be quite the same. Our Louisburg College experience is built on a strong foundation of trust and will focus you on this concept of TRANSITION, enabling you to stay calm in the storms that await you.
Louisburg College is small enough that both our strengths and our weaknesses lie close to the surface. You will be exposed here to a genuine concept of community. Each of you students will come to find that true community is often born out of our brokenness. We will encourage you to accept the words of the psychologist Carl Jung that, “where you stumble and fall is where you find true gold.” Personally, it has been my experience that I am more accountable for my words and actions, when I am clear and honest about my fears and vulnerabilities. The same is true for you.
We each have different doubts and pains. The Franciscan Priest Richard Rohr tells us that if we don’t transform our pain, then we will transmit it. We are all works in progress. Around our campus you will also find what the English writer C. S. Lewis called a good infection. Enthusiasm spreads just like the flu, but in a good way. Lewis goes on to say that it is in gathering in a group such as we are here at this moment that we nurture a communal personality. Together we can learn how, “to ride time and not be ridden by time,” another C. S. Lewis concept.
So now I want us to model this sense of a “Communal Personality.” Remember the PARTICIPATION concept? Everybody, come to the stage….
(FOLKS ARE NOW CIRCLED AROUND QUILT PIECES ON THE STAGE)
In her the book “Everyday Sacred” Sue Bender writes, “Stories move in circles. They don’t go in straight lines. So it helps to listen in circles. There are stories inside stories and stories between stories, and finding your way through them is as easy and as hard as finding your way home. And part of the finding is getting lost. And when you get lost, well that‘s when you start to look around and really start to listen.”
Learning and growth take time. When I was 5, I could fit in this box. That was 56 years ago. TIME is such a wonderful teacher.
Tell Mahatma Gandhi story about diabetic child.
On the floor in front of us we have a story, a metaphor, a symbol of who we are, as newcomers. What do we have in common? How do we fit together? What do you see? There is some type of pattern here, right? How are we like the tiles in front of us on the floor? There is a lot of information here, but without structure we end up with confusion. The Native Americans of the western plains had a word for this word to describe the white man: KOYANISCATSI: LIFE OUT OF BALANCE.
These tiles are like an argument. How? (two Sides) Let’s bring some order. What do we observe? Squares, a front and a back, numbers in a corner? Everyone pick up a tile. An easy question, who has the lowest number. But who has the highest number. All of a sudden we need to communicate.
There are 4 rows. 1-24, 25-48, 49-72, 73-96. In the process of building this quilt we have solved a larger problem which we may have already forgotten about. Let’s build this quilt. It has taken us some time. I believe TIME is an illusion, but it is a very useful illusion. Remember what CS Lewis said about riding time and not being ridden by it.
Turn over a few random tiles. Look at what we have done together. We are engaged in the process of METACOGNITION: A fancy word that just means to change what you know. Time is a concept that fascinates me as an artist and as a teacher.
(Parker Palmer story, about 30 seconds on the heart-lung bypass machine.)
Trust that the Louisburg College story you have experienced is a story of BELONGING. “E PLURIBUS UNUM”, “From many there are one.”
Give yourself a hand and WELCOME to our community of learners!