By: Daniel Runnels
It is easy to look at the people around you and think that everyone else has got it all figured out. We spend a lot of our life hoping that at some point we, too, will figure it out.
What we find, though, is that there are just more questions and fewer answers.
This imaginary “other” who is so well put together is sometimes someone in our social group, but more often this “other” is somewhere else. In middle school we think high schoolers are the coolest and that they know everything. High schoolers look to college students the same way, and soon-to-be graduates often imagine that the professional, adult world has the answers they have been looking for.
Does it ever end? I would dare to guess that a lot of our professors are as clueless as we students are – and probably more so! They’ve lived longer and have had more time for confusion to accumulate—sorry, older people.
What I think it comes down to is that a lot of us have a notion that we should be something we’re not. Is this wrong?
Am I wrong for thinking that I am not who I could be? I intend to be great someday, but I’m not really sure where I’m going.
In this search for answers about the right way to live life and become the person we want to be, the university institution teaches us that we can find some answers in books.
Great! We have a lot of those on campus! Whatever field your intellectual journey has led you to, a big part of being a university student consists of finding out what books have to say about the topic.
To be sure, books are pretty great! There are some good books out there, and they have done a lot of people a lot of good.
Let’s be careful though. One of the great books of all time, “El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha,” is about a guy who reads so many books that he goes crazy.
While books have a lot of answers and can inspire us to great things, our education – growing into our full potential – needs more.
If books were all it took, then the hours all of us spent in classrooms growing up listening to our teachers read from books, assigning homework from books and extolling the virtue of books would have turned each and every one of us into super geniuses.
My friend, Marta, recently gave a great presentation in our religion class where she made a passing reference to a quote that highlights what else helps to make a person whole. In her presentation about the poetry of Ernesto Cardenal, she referred us to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a 12th century French monk, who claimed, “You will find something more in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn elsewhere.”
Without discrediting the value of books, St. Bernard advocates for something just as important: experience. You can learn a lot by holing yourself up in the library and reading all day, but you can learn some very different things by losing yourself in a beautiful moment in the woods. Surely both are part of becoming who you want to be.
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