Graduation is less than three weeks away and I am willing to bet hundreds of seniors can’t wait to “get out in the real world” and get on with their lives – minus early-morning classes, late-night study binges and 20-page term papers.
I have a cautionary note: Don’t be too hasty. And whatever you do, take some of St. Thomas along, especially the part involving a life of the mind.
Life’s more than a two-car garage, a long weekend and an office on the top floor. I came back to a university environment (St. Thomas) after more than 25 years in the world of bylines, live shots and weekly paychecks. What I lost in money I gained in exposure to new books, fresh ideas and challenging discussions.
The undergraduate core of St. Thomas is as relevant to living a good life as developing job skills and technology savvy. For instance, if you took Economics 251, Principles of Macroeconomics, you have more tools than I do to examine the “national income, unemployment, price stability and growth, monetary and fiscal policies, international trade and finance and (the) application of economic theory to current problems.”
That’s as timely and relevant to life in this recession and recovery as today’s New York Times website.
And if you had an elective and chose Music 130, Introduction to World Music, you explored “the phenomenon of music as an activity in people’s lives … a context in which music serves as part of larger social rituals” in such places as Africa, the Middle East, China, India, Japan and the United States.
That’s in addition to learning more about European classical music. I’m trying to do that at the age of 69 by listening to Osmo Vanska and his Minnesota Orchestra playing Beethoven’s symphonies.
If one of your three required Theology classes was 215, Christian Morality, you, your classmates and professor Bernie Brady would have spent last semester discussing and writing about subjects in the book Modern Spiritual Masters, 12 people whose lives “served as witnesses to the challenges of living the contemporary Christian life.”
My old newsroom buddies talk about those very challenges at our weekly coffee klatches, as we spend more and more time over how we acted rather than what we accomplished.
And, if you were a freshman at St. Thomas when the common text was Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, you came away with an antidote for the helplessness we sometimes feel in the face of global (and universal) problems:
“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folks may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither a god nor poet; one need only a good shovel. By virtue of this curious loophole in the rules, any clodhopper may say: Let there be a tree – and there will be one.
“If his back be strong and his shovel sharp, there may eventually be ten thousand. And in the seventh year he may lean on his shovel, and look upon his trees, and find them good.”
Now, I ask you: Why would you ever want to leave all of this behind?