HOW to COMMENCE: “Fail Big; Be Grateful, Seek Wisdom, Get On Your Knees…”

Denzel Washington’s remarkable commencement speech points these graduates forward and away from, hopefully, the dead-end route of Marxist black liberation theology.

Denzel speaks of God-given human desire, of aspirations beyond one’s self, of failing big, of seeking wisdom from above out of a heart of gratefulness and a daily dependence on God. All of these characteristics, he concludes, culminate in a life that makes a difference for the good toward the graduate and to the others he or she may encounter.

Here is something else to ruminate on:

“Today, many people, especially academics, assume that intellectual work takes places in the objective world of the hard sciences, and that the more you move in the direction of the so-called arts, especially things like metaphysics and theology, the more you are simply talking nonsense about nothing. This is the function of Epicurean assumptions, not of the hard sciences themselves; many periods and cultures have developed sophisticated scientific work without assuming that you had to split off from other kinds of knowledge.

Nevertheless, many leading scientists today were brought up on the split-world viewpoint. Some have even, with unintended irony, made it an article of faith that one should not allow articles of faith into the classroom or laboratory….the mistake… of confusing science with scientism, of placing the proper and wise investigation of the natural world within the worldview of Epicureanism, which itself is unproved and indeed unprovable.

So, what’s the alternative? Here, perhaps to the surprise of some, the Christian worldview has a great deal to offer, when you trace it back to its beginnings in ancient Israel, then to Jesus and the writings of the first two or three Christian centuries. The category that emerges again and again in the scriptures and the great teachers of the faith is wisdom, sophia in Greek, Chokma in Hebrew….Wisdom (being) what you need, according to scripture, to become genuinely, fully human. And genuine, fully rounded humanity is what our culture, with its pretense of religion and its variety of unnamed but powerful gods, has been remarkably short of.” (emphasis mine) N.T. Wright, “Surprised by Scripture.”

Our ability to imagine, to intuit and to be wise has been greatly damaged by education that presupposes a fact/value split.

“What renders man an imaginative and moral being is that in society he gives new aims to his life which could not have existed in solitude: the aims of friendship, religion, science, and art.” George Santayana

Regarding “Epicurean assumptions” see my previous posts:

Aren’t You A Bit Epicurious?

Aren’t You a Bit Solipsistic?

Epicurus “High-Horse” Mal-Ware v. 2.015

One Nation Under Epicurus?

***

This post is dedicated to my nephew Joseph (Joe) who has just graduated from high school. The open house is next Saturday. Congrats Joe!

Joe, I know that you already have God-given desires in your heart. May God grant you the desires of your heart. And don’t forget. Enjoy the ride and “Every girl’s crazy about a sharp dressed” grad.

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