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The Root of All Wisdom

September 11, 2009

Dear Members of Brooks College:

Henry, Douglas V. high res (w x h, 0 KB)

The old hands among us know that I like to send around a college-wide note now and then. Three weeks into the semester I am finally sending you, both longtime colleagues and brand new friends, my first letter of the year. We have had a busy few weeks together, haven't we?

Having our collegiate society gathered together gladdens my soul and quickens my step. Why is that? For starters, both within and beyond the walls of our college we constitute a community that is:

  • full of potential for lasting and meaningful friendships;
  • blessed with opportunities for the alternately quiet and boisterous occasions of joy-filled, mutual presence to and for each other;
  • rife with occasions for open-ended, soul-searching conversations about God's call and the Lord's will, as well as clear and confident testimony regarding divinely ordered truth, beauty, and goodness;
  • well suited for offering ready help in bearing burdens to heavy to be borne alone;
  • full of potential for developing the self-understanding in community that is requisite for wisdom;
  • designed for enjoying alongside worthy companions the essential collegiate experiences of feasting, learning, praying, celebrating, living, hoping, and being together.

Life is better, isn't it, when it is shared in the company of friends? Learning is also a richer and finer experience when we can participate in it alongside of friends. A vision of such is at the heart of why Brooks College exists. We are not here to learn and work alone, but together.

On that note let me invite you (again!) to take up a thought experiment proposed by Alasdair McIntyre. "Imagine two individuals," he writes, "who encounter the activities of some ongoing community. One of them becomes caught up in its life. She finds herself energized by so doing and makes the purposes of the community her own, finding the reasons advanced for identifying with those purposes good reasons. She shares the community's hopes for its future prosperity and, when the community is apprehensive of or saddened by setbacks, she too is apprehensive or saddened. The other by contrast is unmoved by her contacts with the community. She forms relationships with some individuals who happen to be members of the community, but this fact about them is irrelevant to her interactions with them. In no way does she become part of the community."

Which kind of person do you intend to be? Will you be caught up in the life of Brooks College, this special residential college at Baylor University? Or--God let it not be--are you unmoved, uninspired, and uncommitted to receiving from and giving to the society of friends gathered in this place?

Will you be not merely a member of the college in word and name, but also a member of the college in deed and in reality? Is Brooks College a home in which you find yourself and your place among friends, or is Brooks College little more than a nice building to which you return for a night's rest? Do you see all of the ways in which MacIntyre's thought experiment has relevance for us--for each and every one?

I want to be caught up in the life of this community. I routinely find myself energized by making the purposes of this community my own, and I care to see Brooks College thrive because its wellbeing is also my wellbeing. I long to Brooks College a beacon to Baylor and the wider community of what life together at its best might offer. And have no doubt, when we face setbacks or struggles I too will share with you apprehension and sadness because I care for you and for our community.

I hope I can count on you for such things. I hope you are here because you want to give yourself to something bigger than yourself. I hope you are here because you know that the collegiate experience is not only about self-reliance and independence, but even more fundamentally about deep and abiding friendships that point us beyond ourselves and ultimately to the Lord that made us, loves us, and calls us heavenward.

Evelyn Waugh has one of his characters observe that "to know and love one other human being is the root of all wisdom." May we show in abundance, this day, this week, this year, that we have some sense of the root of all wisdom precisely inasmuch as we truly know and love each other.

All the best,

henry signature

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Douglas V. Henry
Associate Professor of Philosophy, Honors College
Master, Brooks Residential College
Baylor University