30 March 2017
We have reached a point in the year at which no one ever seems to have gotten enough sleep, a long enough break, or enough caffeine. There are many who will say that this should never be the situation at a school, or that if it is, that it ought not be discussed. We are told that study is leisure, and leisure calls to mind some self-indulgent images of men and women enjoying their holiday. So, these long and late hours that we are all working through at present stand in stark contrast with such happy and romanticized images, and this contrast leaves us unhappily, but eagerly awaiting a change in our conditions as the end of the year approaches. It is a miserable thing to live out our lives in a cycle of drudgeries that are only periodically relieved.
There are those too, mostly of the Pollyannaish variety, who would say that if only outside circumstances could change, individuals would be happy. But, as Marcus Aurelius and others would point out, anyone who depends upon a change of circumstances beyond their control for their happiness is likely to be miserable. The world does not accommodate us; we adapt to the world. Hopefully, we adapt in such a way that we do not reflect its callousness, but we also take stock in the fact that we are capable of surmounting challenges, taking lessons from them, and living a better and a happier life as a result. When Albert Einstein noted that the only road to true human greatness was a road through human suffering, he was only echoing an older truth articulated by Aeschylus and often repeated by Ridgeview students that we learn by suffering, or that he who learns must suffer. As we wish to learn, so too must we suffer. For the student who does well easily, if such a person genuinely exists, it is likely they are not learning that which they most need to know. For the rest of us, our hard work and faithful industry are not solely or even principally about the acquisition of more facts, but of greater wisdom. It may be that the memorization of formulas and various arcane knowledge grows our intellect, but it is the experience of working hard that strengthens our character. So, when someone says that we should only learn the former, and even that only in the strictest comfort and with the greatest ease, I contend that we would lose much in so doing.
When we refer to our character pillars and read under perseverance that, “I recognize that no great thing is achieved without great effort, and that constancy, tenacity, and resolve are the handmaidens to success in an endeavor shared with my fellows,” we can recognize what it means for us to work together. This hard work, which grows harder as the year draws to an end, is something we share. We want to find our fellows filled with constancy, tenacity, and resolve, as well as good cheer, because association with the opposite qualities will prove our undoing. There is nothing so despairing as the hopeless.
“There are some things which cannot be learned quickly,” wrote Ernest Hemingway, “and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring.” Good character, a keen mind that possesses the habit of attention, the art of expression, discrimination, mental courage and mental soberness, and self-knowledge are among those things that cannot be learned quickly. And, time, as Hemingway notes, is all that we have. We have limited time in which to do great but hard things, and consequently it matters very much with whom we choose to share that time. Hard things will be more easily done in positive company, and those who come to pity us rarely lighten our loads. As we run this gauntlet, whether it is Ridgeview’s or life’s, we must choose carefully the types of people with which we will surround ourselves. There are those who will cheer you on, and risk even their friendship with you to improve you, and there are those who are good for little more than sour commiseration.
We will not be remembered for how we behaved during the freshest and earliest hours of a hard venture, but during the trying hours, when exhausted, overworked and worn, we persisted through the drudgery, the trumpery, and the menagerie of inconveniences, frustrations, and disappointments to see a succession of small victories bolster our confidence and prepare us for the still greater challenges to come. When we quit because we believe the challenge too small, too insignificant, too toilsome to be bothered about, we will find ourselves too small, too insignificant, and too frail to attempt the larger and weightier things of life. In order to acquit ourselves of this great charge, we must demonstrate more than resolve, but must also show great resilience in seeing through what we have begun with an enthusiasm unmitigated by the days that have passed since we began.
An author recently noted that resilience is often thought of as the capacity to bounce back. It is a definition that we have borrowed from science, and as one dictionary defines it, resilience is the “capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation, especially if the strain is caused by compressive stresses – called also elastic resilience.” The important discernment is that no one returns to their original size and shape. Stress, frustration, agitation, disappointment, hurt, and all the various lamentations great and small, change us. As this author noted, “If we limit our understanding of resilience to this idea of bouncing back, we miss much of what hardship, pain, and suffering offer us.” It is the “offer us” that is so critical. These feelings, almost always and everywhere characterized as negative, are offering us something crucial. It is precisely when we are struggling that we are growing, but we get to determine what it is that we are growing into. Do we grow into a monster destructive of our best ends, and most likely those of other’s as well? Alternatively, do we grow into a better person possessed of ever greater wisdom who does well by himself and well by others? We choose, but there is no growth in perfect safety and self-indulgence regardless of how attractive such images may be.
What inducement there is in this is fairly straightforward: dig deep and find those reserves that allow you to complete the tasks you have begun with the same energy and conviction with which they were started. Be of good cheer and good courage for yourself and your fellows. Be the type of person you think would do you the most good in the hour of your greatest need.
Middle School: Our middle-school student of the quarter is a hard-working student who is never too proud to ask for help. She is more than willing to share her knowledge with those around her, whether teachers or students, and she always does so with a cheerful disposition, even as late as the eighth period when enthusiasm can generally be said to be waning. She always has a smile on her face. She is quick to serve, quick to help, and quick to encourage. She has been an excellent ambassador for the school, and has served her peers with distinction. Our middle-school student of the quarter is Hannah Harling.
High School: Our high-school student of the quarter has been a long while in the making. His involvement in Ridgeview’s extracurricular activities is extensive. He has been a part of the choir, the madrigals court, the juggling troupe, the plays and the musicals, Student Council, a leader of class discussions, and a young man of growing maturity. He has taken challenging courses, and especially those that set the Ridgeview curriculum apart. Within Ridgeview, wherever one goes, there he is. Our high-school student of the quarter is Austin Schmidberger.