If I were to walk away from my semester at Davidson College with one lesson, it would be this:
I do not want a commodified existence. I seek a fully compassionate life.
In our age of materialism, my generation has been raised to seek external validation and reward for our every action. We have been given Christmas presents, trophies, grades and gadgets for our i-Lives. We have been trained to place our identity in the quantifiable, single-layer external image surrounding us. Where we go to college, what our Facebook statuses say, how fast we run on the treadmill of life. The pressure underlying a deep seated fear of rejection has pushed many of us into despair, unmanageable stress, eating disorders, addictions. We see “real life” as a break from work. We look to socializing as a means of “escape.” So I wonder, where is the underlying meaning in this reward-seeking game? How does it sustain us from within, and where does the true value lie?
When I came to Davidson, everyone told me that life in college is about balance. We can work, worship, play, socialize, take care of ourselves as long as we focus on the moment and what we need to do. The conversation never includes, however, what takes more importance over everything else. How can we balance all the elements if we do not know what they weigh in our life equation?
This week, I feel that the Spirit guiding my life has revealed what truly has significance, regardless of external cost and benefit. Though I once saw grades as a reflection of my self-worth, I no longer feel as invested in the outcome of my work. I seek to learn in a way that nourishes my well-being and my ability to serve others, regardless of outcome. Ultimately, I needed to realize that relationships, first and foremost to God, take precedence in my life.
It has not been an easy road to learn, and I certainly do not always reflect it in my to-do lists.
But tonight, as I sat in our president’s living room surrounded by other freshman students, I realized that this is a precious and valuable moment to search for our purpose. I needed this moment of perspective to realize I am not in control, and it is not my duty as a human being to do everything right. I simply need to follow Christ and be compassionate.
The Dalai Lama’s writings teach me that in our materialistic society, our inner nature to be compassionate has been neglected. It is paramount that if we are to survive as a species, we must discover what it means to see God in the face of another human. To sit with pain and recognize that a problem is too difficult to solve in one night, but that we will pray until our tears end. To hold someone’s hand and be fully present with their suffering. This is where our true connection – and meaning – lies.
So, as I enter into these next two weeks facing more work than any other time in the semester, I pray that I will remember the true purpose is to grow in my compassion and devotion. I will need to remember now more than ever that it is how I approach the challenges, the pain and the suffering, that brings me closer to God. I pray this prayer: that I will come alive as a human being who cares for the sacredness of all creation.
O Lord most high and loving,
Your voice is the One I seek.
Your voice spoke the world into being, spoke my heart into beating,
Your breath pervades everything.
So I pray, dear Lord,
that I may sing you my praise
and hear you sing me to sleep.
Sometimes I feel caught in a maze of meaning seeking:
is it the grades, the relationships, the body, or the sleep?
No, Lord, it is You.
You are the Light that shines upon us and within us.
Yours is the voice that speaks Love through us.
You spark our passion, You fuel our compassion.
Your spirit is the One that sows salvation out of suffering.
May all voices sing out to You,
and may they be held in Your loving hands.