[Note: I wrote this on Saturday, September 6th, but didn’t finish it until today, October 13th.]
The first week of school has finished and I am finally afforded a bit of time alone to reflect on just what has happened to me in the past three and a half weeks. I wrote about half of an essay dedicated to what I learned on Imprint about a week ago, which may or may not get posted, but here is a bit of an exposition on the RA dedication ceremony.
First, a brief digression:
One of my biggest character flaws (perhaps my single biggest) has always been the fact that I possess more than my fair share of pride. I build myself up based on my abilities and strengths. I love that it’s easy for me to accomplish many of the tasks that I attempt. I feel superior when I complete some insignificant task and others are struggling with it. This is not always the face I show to the world, and I don’t think this way all the time, but neither am I a paragon of humility. However small it may be at any given time, there is always a part of me that exudes nothing but raw ambition, frequently at others’ expense.
As this pride takes more and more hold of me, it starts to extrovert itself in my behavior. I gain a love of showing off my superiority; along with this comes an intense dislike of things that showcase my weakness and frailty. I cover this part of me up and try to hide it, but what forms is a small coal-black interior covered by presentable but ultimately useless decorum.
Now, on to the ceremony:
We were each given by Stu Cleek, the Dean of Residence Life at Westmont, a single un-sharpened carpenter’s pencil into the side of which he had burnt our respective names. Near the end of the ceremony, after a bit of prayer and readings, we were instructed on what to do with them – the pencils weren’t much good unless they were sharpened, Stu said, and so we were to shave away the exterior wood until the pencil was usable. Stu continued, as there was more. We were to determine during this time in what ways we needed to be “shaved”. Each of us, he claimed, had something keeping us from being the sort of RA God really wanted us to be. When we were ready to give that thing up, we were to get a knife from the table in the middle of the circle in which we were sitting (does this sound like a cult yet?) and physically shave away the unhelpful parts of our pencil as we asked God to metaphysically shave away the unhelpful parts of us.
I’ve never been huge on soul-searching, so it wasn’t the easiest task in the world to decide which of my many faults I was going to try to give up this time. After a bit of thinking, I settled on the aforementioned pride and got up to grab a knife. Bringing it back and starting to whittle, I realized how poor a whittler I am. It took me near to five minutes to even shave away enough wood to reveal the graphite underneath. Once I got to that point, it was a few more minutes until I had made what might have been considered a “point”. Lumpy and misshapen, with wood encroaching almost to the point of the graphite on one side, I had made this once-attractive block of wood a somewhat unpleasant-looking writing tool.
And then it hit me. I wasn’t just similar in some trivial way to this pencil, I was this pencil. Or rather, I would be. No matter how great I look beforehand, I am useless if all I exist for is to look great. I must be chopped, scraped, and ultimately brought infinitely low before the coal-black center of my soul is exposed to the outside; then, and only then, am I useful.