Taking Gutenberg into the Future (2012 Student Graduation Talks)
At Gutenberg’s 2012 commencement ceremony on June 15th, three students spoke: Erin Makela, Brian Byers, and Gilmore Greco. Their theme was “Taking Gutenberg into the Future” as “a suit” (a business woman), as a mother, and as a…well, you’ll see. “Taking Gutenberg into the future as a mother” changed to “taking Gutenberg into the future as a father” when Carina Crabtree became a mom two days before the ceremony. Brian Byers, who became a dad in May, spoke in her place.
Taking Gutenberg into the Future as “a Suit” by Erin Makela
From the moment I started Gutenberg, it was clear that I was different from many of the students who have gone through. For example, not only did I own a planner, but I actually used and had it with me constantly. I was probably the only one in my class who wrote out a one-, five-, and ten-year plan. I harbored dreams and ambitions of wearing power suits at some point in my life, and I could put together an Excel spreadsheet in under ten minutes.
My understanding of Gutenberg when I started was very different from the reality of Gutenberg. I came to Gutenberg because I loved to read and I was dissatisfied with the education I received from other colleges, but in my mind Gutenberg was simply a means to an end. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Gutenberg was and is different from anything I could have ever imagined. We have quizzes and end-of-term exams, but our Friday afternoon teas, soccer games, and casual conversations are more important. We have papers due and synopses to write, but in the eyes of the tutors, the conversations about the papers and synopses are infinitely more valuable. It isn’t about the deadline but instead about the process.
This realization that the tutors and Gutenberg as a whole place more importance on the journey rather than the final destination has played a huge part in how I think about the world around me.
As I leave Gutenberg and take my place in a world populated by deadlines, project fundings, and contracts, I reflect on what Gutenberg has taught me.
There are more important things in life than working eighty hours a week. Yes, sometimes it is necessary to put that much time into a project, but that should never be considered normal. Life is meant to be spent with family and friends, discussing the latest kombucha recipe or the most recent book we’ve finished reading, not constantly working or seeking that next promotion.
I have the ability to understand issues and get to the root of problems—not only logically but also understanding what was said about it in the great conversation. I can read what various authors had to say about work, family, honor and make connections to my own situation.
Sometimes I will fail at life. This is quite possibly the most difficult but beneficial lesson I have learned. I did not pass all of my two year exams the first time around. I revised for hours at a time and went into the exams knowing more about the world than I thought possible, but I failed two out of four of my exams. I was devastated. But I realized that it wasn’t the end of the world. I simply needed to study harder and try them again. And so I studied harder and passed them the second time around.
The lessons I am taking with me are priceless and will only benefit me in the world I am preparing to join. Yes, I am a suit. I belong in the business world and am eager to take my place. But I am also a Gutenberg graduate, a graduate who has taken up the challenge of discovering for myself what the world has to offer and has discovered a world full of possibilities previously unimagined.
Taking Gutenberg into the Future as a Father by Brian Byers
Carina Crabtree was supposed to speak today about motherhood and Gutenberg and how her experience at the school was going to prepare her for that journey. However, that journey began for her two days ago, so she is unable to speak here tonight. As a class, we are excited for her and wish her new family all the best.
Instead, in her place, I have the honor of briefly speaking tonight about how I understand Gutenberg to have shaped and prepared me to be a father.
At this point in my life, I can confidently say that I am a father. Unfortunately, this is the majority of my concrete knowledge of fatherhood.
But this is OK. At Gutenberg I read about Socrates and how he always insisted that the only thing he knew for sure was that he was ignorant, and the first thing I learned from Gutenberg was to accept and embrace my ignorance. This is the first step towards true learning. Socrates is good company, but I did not learn how to live this from a book.
Freshman year at Gutenberg, I was extremely immature and foolish. You see, I had believed the lie that the best things in life are the things that come the easiest, with no strings attached, free. I had no concept of responsibility—not because my family failed to offer me one, but because I did not want such a thing to exist. Gutenberg, the tutors and the community here, helped me take the first arduous steps on the road towards personal responsibility. Without their kindness and patience, I doubt I would be a father today.
Let me explain.
I first was able to see responsibility in action when the tutors of Gutenberg continuously respected and encouraged me despite my irresponsibility. From the beginning, I was combative and hostile, often blatantly disrespectful. The tutors never stopped listening to me, despite the obvious fact that I had nothing to say. I remember one student evaluation in particular that freshman year. Several of the tutors challenged me; they saw that I was struggling and making poor decisions, and they told me so. Their confrontation, backed up by the patience and commitment they showed in class every day, was the spark I needed to begin the journey toward personal responsibility. For this spark I am forever in their debt.
I realized in that student evaluation that the tutors saw me as a real, concrete person, someone who was inherently valuable. They did not owe this to me, but they gave it anyway.
In seeing the responsibility of the tutors to me and my classmates, I began to learn what it meant to be patient, to be kind, to be forgiving, to be respectful. These virtues meant nothing outside of a context of their responsibility.
Thus, the second aspect of fatherhood, and of parenting in general, that Gutenberg has prepared me for is this: to be personally responsible toward my children. The old fear of responsibility is gone. Now I anticipate with joy the challenges that lie ahead, and I have learned to have the same confidence about myself that the tutors showed me.
This venture into the unknown world of parenting is something my generation almost universally dreads. Children today are unwanted; many are killed before they are even born; and when allowed to live, they are often neglected and abused. I think the root cause of this epidemic of abortions and indifference is found in the fear of responsibility that our generation has embraced. This is understandable but not commendable. After all, it is a terrible thing to be responsible for bringing children into a world where starving countries, environmental holocaust, and potential nuclear war are all present realities.
But this does not excuse us. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” He also said that “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”
Raising a child no doubt requires much thought, and though Gutenberg has helped me to be a better thinker, this is not the most important part of the legacy that it has left for me and my child. Through the actions of the tutors, my classmates, and the wider community, Gutenberg has prepared me for the action that springs from a readiness for responsibility. My classmates and I are better because of it. From all of our children present and future: thank you.
Taking Gutenberg into the Future as a …? by Gilmore Greco
I, unlike the other two people up here, do not have a clear path ahead of me. I am not a father, and I’m not a suit. Currently, I know that I would like to write twelve novels, illustrate a series of thirty-six children’s books, draw at least twenty-seven illustrated classics, film four movies, script six seasons of television, draft nine different graphic novels, storyboard an animated television series, build a board game, and produce one poem.
Those who know me know that what interests me most in life is esoteric entertainment largely aimed at children. I’m what some people call a nerd, but I have chosen to call myself a Ravenclaw.
Creativity, unfortunately, takes capital, and being that ordinarily we liberal arts students end up being baristas, it seems that I might have to get a day job to pursue my goals. It would seem that the world is against us nerds, us artists, us dreamers, because in order to survive in the real world one must be serious.
It occurs to me, therefore, that I should say something serious to encourage us who leave this place to go out into the wide world. But the seriousness of the world is not what I want. I want the seriousness of this place to go with us, that we may face the world.
What, then, is the seriousness of Gutenberg?
It takes a certain seriousness to value another person enough to discuss his trite daydreams. It takes a certain seriousness to find value in the trite daydreams themselves. And it takes a certain seriousness to know the true place of those trite daydreams, to know that death comes for all, to know that our only hope is God, to know that in the face of death, there is good in trite daydreams—not, of course, the goodness of God, not the goodness of life, but another kind of good.
In one of Terry Pratchett’s novels, a bystander asks Death himself what in life is worth living for. CATS, replies Death, CATS ARE NICE. We must live in this serious world with the serious weight of Death, but if we know that God is good, seriously good, then we can also know that cats are nice—and so are trite daydreams.
I can go out into the serious world with the seriousness of Gutenberg because of what I have gained here. I have gained friends serious enough to talk about my trite daydreams. I have found that even the tritest of daydreams may bring the most serious of insights.
I have come to know the serious weight of death—and the serious goodness of God.
Fellow graduate Jonathan Manley told me I couldn’t get up here and speak without a Lord of the Rings reference, so here you are, Jonathan:
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say
I don’t know exactly what the future holds, but I am confident that I will have true friends. I am confident that I can enjoy life. And I am confident that I will have great courage in the face of whatever challenges life (or death) may bring. It is the seriousness of Gutenberg that has given me this confidence, and I would not trade that seriousness for the world’s.
Brian Byers grew up from age five in Thailand, where his American father and Canadian mother were missionaries. The summer after his sophomore year, Brian married Gutenberg graduate Jackie Stollar. The Byerses welcomed daughter Athena into their family on May 29, 2012, and she attended her father’s graduation.
Gilmore Greco grew up from age four in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where his dad was a pastor and a founder of Buenos Aires International Christian Academy (BAICA). Another teacher at BAICA, who was from Oregon, introduced Gil to Gutenberg, and he listened to all the audio talks on Gutenberg’s website. The summer after his sophomore year, Gil married Gutenberg graduate Erin Julian.
Erin Makela Schuurmans grew up in Idaho and attended two other colleges before coming to Gutenberg. Two days after graduating from Gutenberg, Erin married former Gutenberg student Jeremy Schuurmans. The Schuurmanses plan to move to Boston, where Erin will pursue work in the green building industry.
Copyright August 2012 by McKenzie Study Center, an institute of Gutenberg College.