When you write poetry, you are able to see the reflections of your innermost self imprinted on a page (from Poetry as Meditation).
A man from the walking tour
Told me: you are the beautiful couple,
You held each other’s hands, you hugged so tightly…you warmed each other.
I smiled – we cared for ourselves, we could not stand the pain of another freezing.
He was sweet, this man.
It was really windy
The trains are passing by
and I’m washing my body.
I’m slowly washing my body
while the trains are passing by.
The trains are heading North
and I’m feeding the Tiger.
I’m boldly feeding the Tiger
while the trains are heading North.
The trains are heading South
and the man lies buried by the Church.
The main who was dancing tango
while the trains were heading North.
The trains are passing by
the grave, the Church and the Tiger
and I will be dancing tango
while the trains will be passing by.
Today is a day of celebration. You have achieved a significant milestone in your lives. Your family, friends, and the Faculty are celebrating your accomplishments too. Today the Ljusgården – the garden of light – is truly shining with your happy and confident smiles. Not so long ago (on Tuesday this week, to be specific) these smiles were still nervous and confused. Not any more.
One of the delightful moments of being a teacher in these Master Programs is to see the astonishing transformation of hesitant but eager students into the confident, capable and competent graduates that you are now.
The word “graduation” comes from the Latin word “gradus”, which means a degree or step and “graduates” are those who have successfully finished this step in a course of their academic development. As you see, I have not said that this step is upwards, it can also lead side wards or in any other direction because the process of your transformation is very individual and it doesn’t stop here today.
However, today is a good day to look back and make sense of what this academic year has given you personally, on a deeper level than the courses you have completed and grades you have received. The issue of grades is a common topic among students and Faculty. As usual, students want higher grades since the university education is commonly cited as a prerequisite for a “good job” out in “the real world” ( both terms are very ambiguous) . The Faculty is, on the other hand, insisting that by caring about grades students are missing the whole point with education. Who is right?
If you ask my opinion on this matter, I would say that grades do matter but not as the symbols or numbers indicating your worth for your future employers or your social circle but, first of all, as a step in your internal development, and this step is purely qualitative. Only you can know what it is really worth!
Education is about knowing yourself better, understanding the world around you in a more profound way, and attempting to figure out your place in the world. “Knowing thyself,” as the ancient Greeks said, is by a long way more valuable than any material consequences of a diploma.
Grades don’t define us but graduation as a process of continuous development does. What actually defines us is the changes education makes within us. So maybe you have become a better team player, a devoted friend, a passionate blogger or a keen story writer. Or you have developed the passion of a researcher – from Old French re- + cerchier ‘to search intensively’. If you ask yourself these questions, you will most probably answer – yes, this has happened to me! And this is what makes education worthwhile and our today’s graduation very special.
So today I wish all of you an exciting journey into the discovery of your true self, your better self. Now you have the academic tools to embark on this journey. Follow your passion! Let Ljusgården – the garden of light – be your port of departure.
She is free now. For the couple of hours, at least. She is almost running upstairs, rushing into her room to fetch her light coat and the scarf. It takes her no more than thirty seconds. Smashing the door closed, off she goes. Downstairs and out of the hotel – to the fresh air of the early May. She is making sure that no one is following her to the street – she wants to be alone. Large sunglasses are covering her eyes and almost half of her face. It’s the evening time, a little after six thirty, but the sun is still high in the northern skies. She is turning around the corner of the hotel and starting to go with the wide, energetic steps of the sheer determination.
Actually her destination is not so far away, it is clearly visible from the narrow country road that disappears in the fields. She is aiming towards the sea, the blue line on the horizon. She has been fascinated by the open sea since she was a child. It has been many things to her: the playground, the free space, the nature in its truest form. But today, it’s something else. The sea is attracting her, as never before, by its turbulence, it’s energy, it constant roar. It is the nature in transition, and she is feeling the same.
She is going along the patchy path across marshes and tiny creeks, over the cracking wooden bridges. Her eyes are trying to catch everything – the wild geese with their wings flapping like a wet laundry in the wind; the tiny violet flowers grasping the soil among the sandy dunes; the dark, murky waters of the creeks.
The wind is bringing some noise from behind – a group of runners is approaching her fast and she is stepping aside. The young men in the running gear – the colorful t-shirts and pants – are keeping the same pace as a flock. These men are actually her colleagues from the conference – young, much younger than she, ambitious, efficient. No time should be wasted, even if there is very little time free from all the duties they normally have. Ambitious, efficient, time saving – she has been like them for almost all her life. Studying, getting married, working, giving birth, running her chores, moving, organizing, setting down, seeking, struggling, improving, repairing, answering whatever had to be answered.
She is feeling empty – it has taken too much of her, for far too long. She has become restless, her mind is constantly awake, day and night trying to solve the problems – real and imaginary. She wants to slow down and she is doing it with all the willpower that has served her so well to speed it up. She is canceling, postponing, erasing and forgetting, allowing herself to linger awhile among the things she likes, in places she likes. The sea, the dunes, the marshes. She is learning to love the moments of solitude, the lonely walks, the solo lunches, the solitary coffee breaks.
She has finally come very close to the sea line, where the waves are swallowing the narrow sandy beach, leaving the white seashells and sea grass on the shore. The wind is making a mess with her long hair, tying her scarf tight around the neck and almost blowing her sunglasses away. She is breathing the cold, salty air and thinking that the walk in the wind will tire her out fast. Probably, she will even fall asleep easier.
She has not slept well since some months ago. As if some tiny mechanism in her body sets an alarm clock in the middle of the night, causing her pulse to rush and her blood to pulsate in the veins. Her body seems to go on streak at nights and sets its own rules, and all her willpower and discipline are powerless to combat it. At nights she feels like a different person – a rebellious physical body with the defeated, useless mind. At these times she imagines herself being an animal or an insect, steered by instincts, physical, wild, in pain. Like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. Eager to fly but unaware of how it will happen.
How will all this end up? Will she ever fly? Will she become free from this pain? Will she become free? She doesn’t know yet, it’s still a mystery. She has not managed to put this into words either. But one thing she knows well. She is the woman in transition.
When my feet are kissing the grass,
It is kissing me back like a lover,
And its ticklish fur is responding with purr –
We have longed so much for each other.
I’m here to soothe my mind –
It has struggled with chores and duties,
Through the array of days, in impossible ways,
But right now I’ve landed with beauties.
With its paradise birds and lilac lupines,
With its soft, green meadows in sunlight,
Taking worries away and persuading me stay –
My botanical pure delight.
“We have to start from the ground up and reconsider what education is. In my language, I’d like to see us educate the soul, and not just the mind. The result would be a person who could be in the world creatively, make good friendships, live in a place he loved, do work that is rewarding, and make a contribution to the community. People say that the word “educate” means to “draw out” a person’s potential. But I like the “duc” – part in the middle of it. To be educated is to become a duke, a leader, a person of stature and color, a presence and a character.” (Thomas Moore)
I’m reading this quote, which captures my today’s mood in the best possible way, and thinking about the graduation ceremony earlier today. Ljusgården, School of Economics, Lund University.
2 of our most popular programs have graduated today in this humble but solemn atmosphere of the school. It is heavy with traditions, it is very Swedish, too Swedish but at the same time modest in its most genuine way (Swedish born).
The faculty’s speeches were sincere but so reserved that my heart ached. Not a single extra emotion uttered. It was almost Spartan. And because of that the students’ speeches brought tears to my eyes. They were fun, sparkling, hearty, bold, ambitious, happy, daring….And they said what each and single teacher wants to hear – that we have touched their hearts, that they had good time here with us, that they met good friends and want to come back.
They were standing on the podium today – glamorous in their beautiful dresses, chic suits and sexy haircuts. Young. Happy, Friendly. Open. Hearts wide open. They hugged each other. They hugged me, they hugged the school. They laughed and it seemed that the whole world laughed with them. They were kings and queens.
And we had an honor to be invited to their party. Humble we were.