Monday, November 28, 2011


“But speak the truth, and all nature and all spirits help you with unexpected furtherance. Speak the truth, and all things alive or brute are vouchers, and the very roots of the grass underground there do seem to stir and move to bear you witness.”
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Harvard Divinity School Address”

I hope my students understand the importance of speaking the truth as they see it, for this kind of speaking can show the miracles their young lives are made of. It doesn’t matter whether their words carry the weight of “the truth”, whatever that might mean -- only that their words wear the clothes of their own special and irreplaceable ideas. If a student considers Dickens to be a bewildering writer, then that is the truth for that student, and she has a responsibility to say it convincingly so all can understand her. If a boy can’t believe his English teacher hasn’t read the Harry Potter books, he should say that to the teacher with graciousness but energy, for it is the truth as his heart apprehends it. Emerson makes the point that powerfully putting your perception of the truth out there for the world to at least understand, if not welcome, will inevitably bring the blessings of a universe that thrives on the truth of things. Just speak what you honestly believe, I say to my students, and the powers of the wide world will work with you. Emerson suggests that the universe will “stir and move” and make new forces for us to use, if only we will say the truth as we sincerely but unpretentiously touch and experience it at this moment.

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