Orme faculty member Evan Harris was chosen by the Class of 2018 to give the Baccalaureate Address on Thursday evening, May 17. Evan gave a very inspiring and touching talk to the seniors and our entire Orme community, which you can read below. A second year teacher at Orme, Evan this year taught English I, AP English Literature and US & Global Citizenship. Please enjoy his words as much as we all did at the Baccalaureate Ceremony.
2018 Baccalaureate Address
Welcome students, parents, administrators and fellow teachers. I’m honored and grateful to have been invited to speak on this special day.
I think often speakers who give addresses like these talk about life “as a journey.” It seems natural because you are all moving on from one stage of life to another. But I would caution you: Don’t think of your time here at Orme merely as some unmarked stretch on some longer road, a stop or delay on a greater journey. Life doesn’t suddenly start at college or after that, or when you get your first job or start a family. Life is not a journey. Life is what is happening to you right here, right now and every part of it is worth investing yourself in. This doesn’t mean that we don’t think about the future or make goals for ourselves. It simply means that we cherish what we have while we have it.
If you think about the nature of the physical universe it’s basically playful. There is no necessity for it whatsoever. It isn’t going anywhere. That is to say, it doesn’t have some destination that it ought to arrive at. Rather than being like a journey, life is much more like music, because music, as an art form, is also essentially playful. We say, “You play the piano.” You don’t work the piano.
On a journey, you are trying to get somewhere. In music, though, one doesn’t make the end of the song the point of the song. If that were so, the best musicians would be those who played fastest, the best songs the ones that are shortest.
It’s the same way with dancing. You don’t aim at a particular spot on the dance floor because that’s where you want to arrive. The whole point of the dance is the dancing like how the whole point of music is the playing, like how the whole point of life is the living.
But we’re not raised to see things this way. We have a system which sometimes gives us a different impression. You go to kindergarten and that’s great because when you finish that you get into first grade. And then you get out of grade school and you got high school. And things are warming up, life is coming, it’s going to start any day now, then you’re going to go to college… Then you’ve got graduate school, and when you’re through with graduate school you go out to join the world.
Then you get into some business where you’re in the sales department. And they’ve got a sales target to hit, and you’re gonna make that. And all the time life is coming – It’s coming, it’s coming, that big, special life you’ve been waiting for, that success you’ve worked so hard for. Then you wake up one day years later and you say, “Oh my god. I’m here.” And you don’t feel any different from the way you’ve always felt.
Because we thought of life by analogy with a journey, which had a serious purpose at that end, and we can’t help but feel a bit cheated by the whole thing. Because we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing, and we were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.
The good news is that I think The Orme School, our community here, our shared experience here, is the perfect place to sing and to dance. Because I think this is, essentially, a loving place. It’s that love that makes this community so powerful, so intimate, so defining in our lives – not just the love we feel as we explore who we are and what we do, but the love we feel for one another.
Unfortunately, “Love” is a word that is too often misunderstood in our culture. I’m reminded of a short parable that helps explain that misunderstanding. An old man approaches a young man who is enjoying his lunch and asks, “Young man, why are you eating that fish?” The young man replies, “Because I love fish.” “Ah, you love the fish,” says the old man. “That’s why you caught it, and killed it and boiled it? Don’t tell me you love the fish. You clearly love yourself.” So, you see a lot of what we call “love” today is actually more like “fish love.” We look out for ourselves and for our needs. We think about what others can offer us and often not enough about what we can do in return.
We make the serious mistake of thinking that we give to those whom we love. When the real answer is that we love those to whom we give. Because when we give a part of ourselves we invest in one another. So you see true love is a love of giving not a love of receiving.
In my life, I have never been a part of a more giving community than that of The Orme School. We give each other our time, our knowledge, our efforts. Our successes and our failures. We give our happiness, our jokes and our laughter, our struggles and occasionally our tears. We live so openly with one another. We give so much of ourselves here.
That sense of community and connection is more precious today than it has ever been. There’s a study I learned about recently. It looked at the number of close friends the average American believes they can call on in a crisis. That number has been declining steadily since the 1950s. The amount of floor space an individual has in their home has been steadily increasing. I think that’s like a metaphor for the choice we’ve made as a culture. We’ve traded friends for floor space, we’ve traded connections for stuff, and the result is that we risk a society in which people find themselves in danger of being isolated from their neighbors.
But I see Orme as an antidote to all that. Things really are fundamentally different here. And yes, our time at Orme is temporary, but even when this year’s senior class departs, our connection with them will not be severed. The love that they gave to Orme will remain with us. And, in the same way, they’ll be taking our love with them. Orme will be, for all of you, not simply part of a journey but a song and a dance you will never forget. Please go out into the world and share that love.