From a teacher to his students

Jeremy - Memphis, Tennessee
Entered on December 7, 2008

You are like me; you are different from other people. You are you and no one else, and within you there a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself, just as I can. Few people have that capacity and yet everyone could have it.

I cannot reveal to you the enormous burden that presses on my heart each day when I see signs of struggle, signs of vulnerability, signs of intellectual poverty; I cannot reveal this because my heart won’t let me digest it or translate it into words. But I believe in the power of us. I believe in the opportunity to decide between ignorance and apathy or knowledge and critical thinking. I believe in the freedom to think.

For the rest of your life, you will be forced to forge relationships with people who think differently from you. You will often feel uncultured. You will often feel stupid. You will resent many people: hopefully, you will eventually resent yourself for not knowing everything you can and doing everything you can to prevent the Holocausts that are yet to come. Hopefully, you will resent yourself for not stopping the Holocausts that are happening now. I wish we were afraid of silence because in the end, when we need each other the most, we will not remember the words of our enemies; instead, we will remember the silence of our friends—the ones we needed the most.

I believe in second chances. I believe, with apologies to Hermann Hesse, it’s only important to love the world, not to despise it, not for us to hate each other, but to be able to regard the world and ourselves and all beings with love, admiration, and respect. I believe we should strive to do this daily. I believe that it is not our purpose to try to be each other; our purpose is to recognize each other, to learn to see each other and honor, admire, and respect each other for what we are: each other’s opposite and complement. When we start celebrating our differences—whether black or white, Muslim or Christian or atheist, gay or straight, man or woman—we will see no boundaries to what we can accomplish. And as soon as we learn that we are all at once different and the same, we will be able to learn and love in a way that no man or woman has ever learned or loved before us. We will live without hate, but not without rage. We will heal the world. This I believe.