In the afternoon, I watch the Noloholo Scholars put on their second round of English-language skits. These are full of moral lessons – take care of your elders, always tell the truth, listen to your teachers, study hard. At the end, the teacher we’ve hired for the week who is from Arusha stands up and tells them: You are very lucky to have this education. Look at all the people out there, with no education, having to beg on the streets with nothing to do. That is not you. You have to spend all your time studying, you have to always be learning, not only when you are in school. This is a gift, you are given this opportunity, so use it for all it is worth. It was so stirring that it made me want to go back to school and study harder. To do it all over again.
There was a compelling short essay I read today, written by Peter Burian, dean of humanities at Duke. It is an essay in defense of the humanities, to say that of all the disciplines, this is the one that teaches us to look at the world around us and then to find our place it in, to understand who we are in relation to what we experience. While I believe that indeed, as people we are always seeking to find who we are in relation to our experiences, that literature will purposely drag us down to the extremities of emotion. I believe we learn the most about ourselves when faced with such emotions – the blackest anger, the most poignant sorrow, the most euphoric happiness. A book is not life, of course, but I know I have found out much from myself by contemplating another’s writing.
The question is, I think: What do I surround myself with? The people, stories and experiences I face will shape me – at work, at home, on the television, in the news. I know I will be shaped by something. I believe that the ability to choose beyond instinct is what makes us human. What have I chosen today? What have I chosen for my life? And, for the future?