I’ve just returned from Prize Giving for S4 at Dunoon Grammar School. There was a mix of awards for academic achievement, improvement and (most wonderful of all, I thought) for those who most significantly surpassed what had been expected of them. We had contributions from an excellent piper, a couple of rappers, a dance group, a vocalist and some cheerleaders. Oh, and some noble words from the head and the guest speakers…
Being in a school for any length of time always leaves me marvelling at the wealth of talent young people seem to possess. And it makes me wonder: where does it go? Why are there so few adults who maintain the diversity of skills, the passionate enthusiasm that most young people seem to have naturally?
If I think back to my years as a teacher, the only kids who didn’t manifest joy and enthusiasm were those who had already been worn down by circumstances. They were often just as bright as their classmates and did perfectly well at school, but the energy that should have gone into creativity and laughter went into the mechanics of survival.
Is that what happens to so many adults? Are we so busy surviving that we forget how to live?
The first time I took part in an Ignatian retreat, my spiritual director sent me off to pray with Deuteronomy 30:
Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe. See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. … Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.
At the time, I found the passage frustrating. All well and good telling us to choose life, but how do we actually do it?
But I now think that the how doesn’t matter so much. Choose life, choose laughter, choose creativity, choose love… choose whatever you need to to let go of the need simply to survive.