Making Good Use of the Day Alone
May 18, 2010
Dear Members of the College:
With the days of summer upon us and so many of us spread out over the four corners of the earth, Brooks College is strangely quiet in most quarters. Summer maintenance and the restoration of the Great Hall paneling mean that the college will not be perfectly quiet. This week we are hosting two national groups that are gathering for seminars in our spaces, and they bring conversation and company into the college as well. And of course Zachary is always ready to pierce the still, silent air with his exuberant boyish whoops and hollers.
The great emptiness of the halls and the general quiet of the college, especially in the evenings, reminds me how grateful I am for the well-orchestrated symphony of life in Brooks College. Our crescendo of activity at the end of the spring term, culminating in the great celebration of Commencement Day, is wonderful. A gradual decrescendo then completes the term, as so many of you slowly trickle away to be with your families at home, to begin new jobs, or to undertake mission trips or study abroad. I believe Alex Tworkowski sounded the last, beautiful note of this year's long decrescendo, so to speak, when he finally left the college yesterday; he'll be in Bangalore, India on a mission trip this summer.
Now that we are all mostly away from one another and the college, I want to help you think about something important. It is simply this. Our time apart from one another is essential for our time together. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose little book Life Together has much wisdom to offer, makes the point well in two terse cautions. "Whoever cannot be alone should beware of community," and "Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone." He elaborates:
We recognize, then, that only as we stand within the community can we be alone, and only those who are alone can live in the community. Both belong together. Only in the community do we learn to be properly alone; and only in being alone do we learn to live properly in the community. It is not as if the one preceded the other; rather both begin at the same time, namely, with the call of Jesus Christ. Each taken by itself has profound pitfalls and perils.
Those who want community without solitude plunge into the void of words and feelings, and those who seek solitude without community perish in the bottomless pit of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair. . . . The day together will be unfruitful without the day alone, both for the community and for the individual.
Thus, I urge you to make good use of your days alone this summer, ordering your time with a sense of indebtedness to the excellent fraternal and sororal life that we want Brooks College to represent. Bonhoeffer says that three things are important when one is alone and away from the community: meditation on Scripture, prayer, and intercession. In at least these ways, you have my pledge to use the summer days ahead to prepare myself for more able service among you. I hope that you will do the same.
One final good word is mine to give. Baylor's terrific director of media relations, Lori Fogleman, has written an outstanding piece about a national recognition that Brooks College received in March. Somehow, the story was written and posted, but the link to it was deactivated so that it received little public attention. Media relations has reactivated the link, however, and you can read all about our NASPA Gold Excellence Award (see www.baylor.edu/pr/news.php?action=story&story=74406). What a fine and encouraging acknowledgment of our efforts it is!
God keep you, each and all, and bless you wherever you may be.
All the best,
Douglas V. Henry
Associate Professor of Philosophy, Honors College
Master, Brooks Residential College