2023’s Graduation Speech by James Orlet.
I got to have a really thoughtful conversation with a student on the Desolation Canyon River trip last week. She was asking what advice I have for her as she goes off to college.
It was a sweet conversation.
We talked about the idea of committing to life and sticking with things, putting all of yourself into what you pursue, engaging with life and with people. We talked about how to ask more of ourselves. Here is what we want for you in college and beyond. Don’t limit yourself in thought. Don’t opt out in the service of protecting yourself.
Don’t opt out.
Don’t look to life to fit around you. The voices telling you to focus on yourself and on what you want are loud and distracting. They describe how everything is too much or too hard. They instruct you to put yourselves at the center and to turn to your brain or reasoning or body to solve problems. These voices tell us that we naturally are the center and that things either revolve around us or that they should, or that life happens to us, and all we get to do is react to it.
You will remember what Joel shared with us on the beach on the river during our last morning- talking about me-time. We want so much for you. We want big, full, expansive lives, lives full of service, of joy, of challenge, of growth. There is a whole culture and industry that tells you that your time and your energy are contingent on me-time, on thinking about yourself, on protecting yourself and guarding your time. But facing life as a limited, zero-sum game is a trick.
Of course, time doing what you want -and rest- these are great and important. The catch to buying into the need for something like me-time is that this need will grow if unchecked. It is as invasive and as twisted as the tamarisk overtaking the desert rivers we have seen all year. Guard thought. Do not be hypnotized by anything that suggests you are finite or limited or that you need a list of conditions to align in order for you to do your work or to have a clear thought. Your energy, your inspiration, your endurance, and your capacity are ever and only expanding if you treat them that way in your thought. You are a renewable resource.
There is a story that I love that a friend told me some years back. That addresses so perfectly this idea of thought and being fooled or hypnotized.
She was a practitioner when I met her but had been an FBI field agent in the 1970s and 80s. She and her husband were on their way to a fancy dinner with 300 other agents and their spouses. On the drive to the dinner, they were talking together about Mind and thought and our ability to control thought.
The entertainment that night was a hypnotist. He was well-known and quite capable in his trade. He began his act on stage and quickly stopped. He started again only to stop again. He tried a third time but was clearly thrown off and frustrated. He finally stopped, turned to the audience and said- “There is a Christian Scientist in the audience, I can’t do my act”. And then he left the stage.
My friend the practitioner had not intended to interrupt the show and was not actively working against the hypnotist. I remember her saying that what she took from this experience was this. “One clear thought can keep 300 from being hypnotized.” I love this. I love that thought- when aligned with Divine Mind- is complete, clear, and permanent. It is whole and immutable.
At our senior project presentations yesterday, a few of our seniors shared about climbing during the senior trip in Bluff, Utah. I want to share a little bit more about our time together there. What these students so sweetly and respectfully did not share about was an incident that occurred during the final day of the trip. I took a long fall while lead climbing and hit the ground with full impact. The injuries and claim of obstructed thought were significant and alarming.
One clear thought can keep 300 from being hypnotized. Imagine this impact compounded with 8 people keeping a clear thought- or 12 staff, or 6 board members, or 100 family members. etc
I can’t tell you how deeply meaningful the response from the Link community and family was to me and, I would say, to all of us. Within minutes of the fall, the Link community had gathered together and was standing in unison for Truth. What a gift this family is. From all over the country and even the world, messages of assurance, love, support, and truth flooded in. The prayer offered was effective and healing.
We don’t always get to know when or how we will be called to act. We don’t always know what may be asked of us. The call to support to help can come at any time. How do we prepare our thought to be ready to act? What do we do in our daily lives to be ready when we are called to respond spiritually?
Don’t live in a state of hypnosis. Don’t be hypnotized by the thought or opinion that says that you are limited or need a certain social or elemental condition or even a certain physical condition to be able to perform.
I’d like to tell another story.
My dear teacher- told me about an experience she had while boating the Grand Canyon. She was nervous to be on the trip in big water and was working to prepare her thought in the time leading up to the trip. She was with an excellent boatman who hadn’t flipped a boat in years. As they were in a particularly large rapid- the boat flipped and she found herself under the boat- unable to surface or to get a breath. She thought to herself “I can’t breathe!” then she heard clearly God say “but I can”. This reassurance calmed her. But then the thought again- “I can’t breathe”. Then again “But I can”. I believe she had the same thought a third time and a third time the clear voice “but I can”.
Back to that question of advice —– trust in something that is not you.
Every time you’re tempted to believe you can’t, remember that God can. God does not require me-time to be ready to respond. So neither do you.
When we opt in- when we allow ourselves or agree to the fact that we are capable of more- we avail ourselves of more. We avail ourselves of good, of love, of healing, of infinite capacity. We allow the fact that we are directed by Mind, by Love. It is this limitless sense of ourselves- not some defined version of me-time- that gives us the ability to serve and to be present and available when we are called.
Don’t hold back in life.
Don’t believe for a moment that you are limited or that lack is a part of your experience.
Hold instead to an unfolding and ever- broadening sense of life- and of good.
An ever-broadening sense of life is that clear thought. You have seen the healing impact of that these past two weeks.
Make that decision to control your thought- to choose to see good- in every moment in everything.
Hold so tightly to good.
Hold fast that which is good.
When things seem too big or too tough or too scary- remember this…
“But I can”
I want to leave you with a quote that has been so meaningful in my life– and a life preserver the past few weeks. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.”
You each HAVE such beautiful, beautiful qualities to share with the world
You are unique
You are capable of absolutely anything
You each are needed.
And you are greatly loved.
We love you and we will miss you!