(The following is based on Greg Carpinello’s remarks at the Magis Society Induction Dinner for the Class of 2013 at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio on April 5th, 2013.)
The world needs you.
The world needs you. Not to be saviors, but to be agents of change for the common good, to join the network of committed workers who are out there already devoting their lives to cultivate love, justice, peace. You are the reinforcements. You are the new life the world needs to enliven its social movements, to reinvigorate its churches, to bring light to the darkest of places. The world needs you to be the best version of yourself. The world needs your love. I believe this is the world’s message to you, at this moment in your life, in this moment in history. But let me tell you something difficult: you won’t hear that message very clearly when you leave here. Instead you will be bombarded with other messages, albeit subtly, on a daily basis; messages such as these:
Buy this fill-in-the-blank and it will make you happy.
Seek convenience and personal comfort at all costs.
Religion is irrelevant.
People won’t change.
The world can’t be changed.
And college will be the best years of your life.
Let me repeat those subtle messages. Buy this fill-in-the-blank and it will make you happy. Seek convenience and personal comfort at all costs. Religion is irrelevant. People won’t change. The world can’t be changed. And college will be the best years of your life.
That may sound discouraging, but this is my hope, our hope, for you:
Don’t buy those messages. Remember the lessons you have learned here. Allow your transformations, begun or continued here at Xavier, allow your transformations to continue to unfold before you like a river. And if you do, I bet that you won’t buy those messages. For those messages are only true when we let them be true.
If we fixate on, and dream about, and work towards buying “things” and “stuff” then the immediate adrenaline rush of acquiring will deceive us for happiness. I hope your time here with us at Xavier has given you at least a glimpse of how the opposite is true, that your happiness will truly come from within, your happiness will be sustained by community, a sense of purpose and a connection to something greater than yourself.
If we seek convenience and personal comfort at all costs, we will ignore the needs of others and of the earth. If convenience and comfort become our gods, then we will not know kinship and solidarity. I hope your time with us at Xavier has given you a glimpse that love is not always convenient and does not always keep us safe, not radical love at least.
Religion will be irrelevant if we allow it to be. If we allow religion to be nothing more than doctrine, dogma and rules, then it will be nothing more than an “us-versus-them” belonging system. But if we enter into it with our eyes and hearts open, our consciences attuned to dialoguing with tradition, then religion can be transformative. And even if you don’t subscribe to a formal religion, the world needs your thoughtfulness in the dialogue and your dedication to humanity. But above all, we must remember that church is not something we attend. We must remember that WE are our churches, temples, and mosques.
People won’t change, especially if we expect them not to. If we succumb to the polarization of our day (politically, religiously, in our families and in our towns), then we will never give people a chance and we collectively and individually will never go deeper in life. There’s a great quote from Mother Theresa that starts: “People are unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.” If you believe people won’t change, then that’s what you’ll get. If you believe they can, you’ve left the door open for dialogue and the potential for both of you to grow.
The world can’t be changed and again, it won’t if we don’t believe it can. Look to the past. Look to the good things happening in the present. The world can be better, and will be better, if committed people like you band together and believe in it. You have done it here together at Xavier and the same can be true once you leave.
And lastly, yes, college will be the best years of your life – if you let that be true. And college will be the best years of your life – if you do nothing but live in the past. But if you stay attentive no matter where you are, no matter what you’re doing, or no matter who you’re with… if you stay reflective in your life, always seeking meaning… if you follow love in radical ways even when it hurts, even when it makes you vulnerable, even when it calls you to do unexpected things, even when it seems like you are aren’t good enough, even when you can’t see the path ahead of you… then trust me, college will not be the best years of your life, but every RIGHT NOW will be the best moments, the best years of your life, whether you’re 25 or 35 or 85.
Those subtle, discouraging messages will only be true if we let them be true. Instead, listen for the gentle whisper of the world that says: “You are needed. Your love is needed. Live passionately for and with others.” You will hear this whisper from your neighbors in need, from your family members when they suffer, from children when they make you their role model, from your elders when they entrust their care to you, and from your own heart when your passions find creative outlets to meet the world’s needs. And if you do live each day passionately, you will know a lasting joy that can’t be confined to any 4 year period. If you do live each day passionately, then even your future hurts will become holy wounds that make you wiser and more compassionate. If you do live each day passionately, your life will be a gift to yourself and to the world around you.
Greg Carpinello has fond memories of his Xavier days, and from his graduation in 2001. He couldn’t stay away (graduation does not always equal leaving), giving him the distinct privilege to send so many other students into the world. And, if you have seen how cute his son is… you know that these are his best years of life so far!