Welcome, everyone! Welcome new students, faculty and staff; and welcome back to the College veterans. It is a delight to be with you all this year, as we come together to constitute a new community—a unique community, a community that has never been before, and will never be again. Not only individually, but also together, we are one of a kind.
In that spirit, I would like to offer a few words from Thomas Merton for the start of this academic year. Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk and an interreligious pioneer; and, fun fact: in ancient times, when I was just starting my college career at Colorado College, my second block was a class on Thomas Merton, and it piqued the interest that helped make me the scholar I am today. (So I have a soft spot for Merton!)
In his book, New Seeds of Contemplation, Merton writes: “A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying [God]. It ‘consents,’ so to speak, to [God’s] creative love … A tree imitates God by being a tree. The more a tree is like itself, the more it is like [God]. If it tried to be something else which it was never intended to be, it would be less like God and therefore it would give [God] less glory. No two created beings are exactly alike. And their individuality is no imperfection … This particular tree will give glory to God by spreading out its roots in the earth and raising its branches into the air and the light in a way that no other tree before or after it ever did or will do. Therefore each particular being, in its individuality, its concrete nature and entity, with all its own characteristics and its private qualities and its own inviolable identity gives glory to God by being precisely what [God] wants it to be here and now, in the circumstances ordained for it by [God’s] Love and [God’s] infinite Art.”
So, this year, I hope you continue to grow into yourself—not become more like anyone else, but become more like you. And, remember, we're in this together, so you aren't growing alone. There are plenty of us ready to help your growth, and we need you to help our growth, too. The world doesn't need multiple copies of any one type, it needs you, with your own unique gifts and abilities. Let's get to it. It's time.
The views expressed herein represent the personal views of the author, not Gettysburg College.