When I confront a human being as my Thou and speak the basic word I-Thou to him, then he is no thing among things nor does he consist of things. He is no longer He or She, a dot in the world grid of space and time, nor a condition to be experienced and described, a loose bundle of named qualities. Neighborless and seamless, he is Thou and fills the firmament. Not as if there were nothing but he; but everything else lives in his light.
Martin Buber so avidly declares that in order for connection, communication, and understanding to be realized, we must step away from ourselves and understand the other while holding onto everything we hold most dear. In other words, we must have respect for the “Thou” in our lives while being cognizant of ourselves which is the “I.” As of late, I have had a thought burning at the outskirts of my skull, an endless dream that is constantly swimming throughout, what is Denison’s idea of culture and community? This is a multi-faceted question, on the one hand you have the institutions idea of culture and community, and on the other you have the students understanding. So which idea is correct, which idea is practiced, which idea becomes explicit, and which idea becomes implicit?
Upon analysis of the the institutional depiction of culture and community, it would seem that Denison hits the nail on the head.
“Our purpose is to inspire and educate our students to become autonomous thinkers, discerning moral agents and active citizens of a democratic society. Through an emphasis on active learning, we engage students in the liberal arts, which fosters self-determination and demonstrates the transformative power of education. We envision our students’ lives as based upon rational choice, a firm belief in human dignity and compassion unlimited by cultural, racial, sexual, religious or economic barriers, and directed toward an engagement with the central issues of our time.”
Every student, faculty, staff, and administrator has been told this statement time and time again. This is an ingrained staple of what makes Denison so unique, this statement right here. However, as students who live in this community and live within this culture, do you believe that we are as connected and as immersed with one another as this statement so acutely depicts? To be blunt, Denison’s explicit goals are not being practiced. The implicit nature of those around us depicts a much harsher reality. In fact, this reality has been carved out by the students themselves.
Pockets, a word that I cannot stress and dislike enough.
The natural tendency for humans to cling to those who are similar has been occurring for thousands of years, but as a small community of young scholars who are in the revolutionizing age of cultural awareness, why do we so aggressively fear the other? Pockets of culturally similar people are a huge aspect on this campus. While spending time with those who are similar ethnically, socio-econmically, and socio-politically can be good for friendship and comfort, it can also be destructive. Time and time again I have observed pockets of people who rarely, if ever, break free from the bounds of group-think, similarity, and assimilation. As a matter of fact, I am even guilty of this, however, it is time to re-think, re-evaluate, and re-instill our sense of culture and community on this campus. It is time to question, to care, to reach out, and to think critically of the way in which we conduct our lives culturally and communally on this campus.
The hill is a precious gift that allows one to become educated in a wide variety of subjects while getting to meet people from an assortment of different cultures, backgrounds, and places around the world. It is time now not to waste this chance to truly learn from experience, from story, and from others. Be the autonomous thinker that Denison crafts you to be and use your voice to stand up and renew your sense of culture and community. Connect with the other while expressing the importance of self, realize the “Thou” in your lives and realize that the “I” can coincide.
I invite all of you to experience a renewed sense of culture on this campus that is so desperately needed on Friday, April 29th at 4:30PM on A-Quad. Taste Denison, Taste Connection, Taste Difference, The Taste of Culture.
-Tyler B. Law
C3 Advisory Board
Global China Connection-Denison President
Taste of Culture 2016