Every time I go back to my old Philosophy I and II notes, I'm reminded of what Cheever used to always say to us: that we would always be our own teachers. At the ages of 16, 17 and 18, I was clearly understanding the concepts of the courses. I was applying them to my life. I was learning.
But, like I've said before and have been told by many, learning doesn't stop at the bell or the closing of a classroom door or at graduation. It's why I carried my Philosophy materials 300 miles south with me: to continue to learn.
Somewhere along the way, with all of the drama and the work and the fun and the stress and the adventures, I forgot to continue to live so much of what Cheever had helped us learn. It's like riding a bike though. You never really forget.
Krishna, Lord of the Rings, "the bigger picture," renunciation, Lost, the I Ching, Catherine the Fish, socialization, dukkha, Zen, koans ("Mu!"), Rumi, The Legend of Bagger Vance, Kabbalah as esoteric Judaism, Plato's allegory of the cave, Ken Wilber, memes, Aristotle, "weird," maitri, Descartes, The Matrix, empiricism, Peshitta, temptation, Sofia, retreat, east of Eden, morality/ethics/meta-ethics, passion.
Right now, at age 21, I can look back on all of those things and gather something new. When I read Pema Chödrön's words about "leaning into the pain of life," it means something different (and deeper) now than it did four or five years ago. "You have the right to work but none to the fruit thereof" still holds true, but I understand it deeper as well. So does the allegory of the cave, the moral of Catherine the Fish and everything I learned about myself on Senior Retreat.
I'm surprised, every time I realize this. And yet, I shouldn't be.
Though, there seems to be a difference between the high school-me and the me in the present. My writings were tinged with a belief in some higher power. In religion. In faith. I don't know how much that holds true for me right now. I don't know if I "believe" in "anything." I think if 3+ years away from my familiar surroundings have taught me anything, it's that hanging your hat on a religious coat rack is not necessary to lead a fulfilled life. To stress and worry and concern myself with a label--Christian, Catholic, Baptist, Buddhist, Taoist--is less important than working toward guiding your life in the "right" direction.
I don't know if I believe in God.
But there are some things I do know: I know I don't believe in the concept of hell and I know I don't believe in evangelizing. I do believe that everyone has a right to his or her beliefs and I do believe that religion, faith and spirituality can play a vital role in others' lives.
Above all--and this is really what I take away from Cheever's classes and from my own constant education--I believe in wisdom (Sofia, if you will) and that's something I'll stand by.
Dear self: As Cheever would say, "Carry on."