Return to Program and Remarks
Donald R. Eastman III
September 6, 2006
"Glory be to God for dappled things" - says the poet
"For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced-fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Students, faculty, staff, and friends of Eckerd College, each of us original, and many, if not most of us "counter, strange, fickle" - if not freckled, welcome, and welcome back.
I am thinking today, as I revel in the sight of each of you assembled and reassembled marching or drifting in to be called together in this verdant, tropical, magical place by the sea,
I am thinking today of Annie Dilliard describing the small delights of nature - the wings of a mockingbird, the greening of spring grass - as pennies from Heaven: by that accounting we are all here rich beyond measure.
I am also thinking of my own long-ago convocation as a freshman at Emory University and how Rachel Carson's voice rang like a bell as she woke a world to the routine destruction of the natural and the holy.
I am thinking today of the psychologist and philosopher William James, that most original of America minds, thinking of James musing that God may reveal himself only to those who want and expect Revelation.
Consider for a moment the supposition that we will apprehend or understand only that which we are prepared, indeed passionate, to see. And let us each resolve this academic year to be even more prepared and passionate and open to learning, to love, even to God (who will come, we can be sure, in forms and guises we do not expect).
I am thinking today of the mostly young men and women, many just the age of our students here, each tender and beloved as our students are, fighting and dying on the battlefields off a war now longer than World War II. A war about oil, and religion, and culture.
Just when we thought God was dead, Christianity a passé relic, "We find ourselves in a war," says a New York Times columnist, "with people who want to kill us all and wreck our civilization."
I am sure, as my generation's prophet said, That the answer to this madness is 'Blowin' in the wind;' but which answers we hear depends so largely, as William James tells us,
on what we want and expect to be revealed to us, and what we want and what we expect are at the heart of what we will learn and teach this year.
One of the many reasons I love the hymn we will sing at the end of this service by Harry Emerson Fosdick is the refrain,
"Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
because an Eckerd education is not about wisdom to be hoarded, or wisdom too precious for display, but wisdom - intellectual, spiritual and emotional - earned through study and practice - for use in the world where there is too little of it.
For the facing of this hour . . ."
Courage is required to put wisdom into action, in a world resistant to wisdom
and surprised by courage.
May our work together this year yield wisdom for each of us and the courage to use it in the vital hour.