An Open Letter to my Graduating Class 2010-13

October 25, 2013


Dear Graduating Class of Mass Communication 2010-13, Uganda Christian University, Mukono, 

As your last experience here, your final moment,you’ve been guaranteed the same regurgitation of “wisdom,” passed on from those who supposedly know to those who supposedly don’t. So, as the novelist Kurt Vonnegut might once have said, it goes. Or every now and then, it doesn’t

The only planet that has mornings! This is an intriguing thought: and, how would they know? The poet in me loves it, however, because it sees the metaphor of new beginnings, optimism, rising to the occasion (in Mexico a friend calls sunset “the occasion”) and getting on with the new day. I also appreciate the notion of our specialness, as a planet,whether it is accurate or not.

I have been thinking of you for many months. Wanting to share your day with something useful from an experience of Life. It is wonderful to see you; to know you have worked and studied and prayed hard. That you have meditated much.That you have struck out on your own through these perilous times to be of benefit to yourselves and to the world. You are children of this cosmos, this galaxy, of your no doubt innocent Earthling parents who brought you into this existence, and also children of the Buddha, which is to say, Beings who continue to grow into people who treasure wisdom, joyfulness and peace. In fact, you are practically adults. We recall that to the Cherokee, as to other people who have noticed how long it sometimes takes for humans to develop fully, adulthood comes – if it is coming at all – at the age of 52.
I salute you and your parents for the accomplishment your graduation represents today, in this most beautiful and inspiring place where, I’ve lived and known not to have sunshine 300 days of the year, and the mountains near enough to cause a continual raising of the eyes and rising of the spirit.

And we today, all of us on this earth, are exactly who we have been waiting for. It is for us to change the direction of the planet and we must not lose our belief that we can do so.

We are rising all over the globe now, in this most terrible of times for Earthlings and for our Home planet. People everywhere are moving, joining each other, plotting and planning how we may protect and provide for the challenges of the Age. Still, there are, and will be, days of incredible depression and distress as we encounter the hard truths of the suffering of the Earth and her Creatures.

There are abominations occurring on our planet that I’m convinced would have been unimaginable in the Buddha’s lifetime.They are unimaginable even in my own lifetime – and I have actually encountered some of them. The horrible genocide, the incessant war and war mongering, the dropping of bombs on the poor; the starving, deliberately, of children. The greed. The mutilation, cannibalism and enslavement forced on people who are at the mercy of weaponry and force wielded by people they’ve never even seen.

And I say to that: When it is all too much; when the news is so bad meditation itself feels useless, and a single life feels too small a stone to offer on the altar of Peace, find a Human Sunrise.

Find those people who are committed to changing our scary reality. Human sunrises are happening all over the earth, at every moment. People gathering, people working to change the intolerable,people coming in their robes and sandals or in their rags and bare feet, and they are singing, or not, and they are chanting, or not. But they are working to bring peace, light, compassion, to the infinitely frightening downhill slide of Human life.

You will find those of the Human Sunrise Movement speaking with heart about the suffering of animals, and also the necessity of preparing, in a good way, for death. Find the Human Sunrise that love of animals draws you to, and stay close to it, for that is the way of a future without self-deception and shame.

Always remembering that there is nothing too small any of us can learn to do to help us out of our predicament,and that learning to extend the range of our compassion is activity and work available to all.

If we are open to it, we will be taught by masters.

I thought long and hard about exploring this next area with you: Preparing to die. Graduation day is, after all, something like a wedding celebration: you are marrying your future. And perhaps all thought should be happy, cheerful thought. On the other hand, I chose to write to you today and what has come up continually when I have queried Spirit about what to say to you is: Talk to them about preparing to leave this plane.

I have thought about my own death a great deal in my life; I thought of it on a daily and almost moment to moment basis while I was experiencing the Human Sunrise. It could have come at any moment; it did come for many people that we knew. Over time I realized it is not death itself that frightens me, and in fact I suspect that being dead will be a delight. Such freedom, such spaciousness! And hasn’t everything in life, up to that point, been pretty mind-blowing?

What I recommend is much sitting with the thought of dying. Of the moments when you will be leaving your present consciousness. How would you like to transition? After much contemplation, I settled on the idea that if only I can die touching some shred or scrap of the earth, a bit of grass, a trunk or root of a tree, a twig or stone, I would be content. If I could see some small corner of the sky, some leaf being blown by the wind. Smell the earth, whether flowers or straw, that would be enough. But later on, reading the news,listening to the heavy footsteps of death rumbling the planet, I refined this.I sat long enough to realize I might have to deeply know that a flaming plastic plane seat is also earth. That a classroom filled with desks and computers is also earth. That prison cells with their sadistic guards and cement floors are also earth. That, in fact, all dying is returning to the earth. And that,because I love Earth, I can be content to feel myself returning to her in whatever is her form. That her elements are also mine. Since of course I am made of Her. This was very helpful to me.

Incorporating deep thought about how we might leave our present incarnation can make us stronger – like preparing for a challenging test, rather than relying on guess work – can make us stronger. It will be a major moment of our lives,and filled with meaning – meaning that only we can give it. Instead of dissolving into panic or fear, it will be good to understand beforehand that,before transition, however unexpected it might be, you could just possibly be granted a moment of centeredness, mindfulness, even a split second, of real peace. Peace that comes from gratitude for whatever life you have lived on this astounding Earth. If there is a moment to have the presence of mind to kiss her, what a joy that would be. Imagine it! A kiss good-bye. A kiss hello. For you cannot ever really leave this Mother. She is all there is.
This reminds me of something I recently learned about Mother Teresa. I had always thought Mother Teresa was only focused on endings. Poor people dying and her helping them die with dignity and peace. However, recently in a very useful book by Lynne Twist, called The Soul of Money, (in which she discusses how we can use money to improve the world instead of using it as many of us do to make things worse) I discovered that at the same ashram where the dying were cared for, women often dropped off their unwanted new-borns. Lynne Twist herself arrived at the door of the ashram and found a tiny baby on the doorstep wrapped in old newspapers. Mother Teresa’s nuns took the child, cooing happily at it, washed and fed it, and added it to the nursery full of new-borns they were already tending. Who knew?

That’s how close it is, I think. We are always going and always coming again.And we are made so beautifully, with a wonderful inner moral compass to guide us. Our inner light. The personal human sunrise we all carry which flames into a larger warmth when we join ourselves with others. The poor, humble, radiantly beautiful black people of Mississippi, and their maligned and harassed and sometimes beaten and murdered white allies, taught me this, and I am forever ingratitude to them for doing so. May they always know peace.

How to start? Where to start? Why even try?

And yet, maybe in that very sense of being overwhelmed is a place to begin. In the 1960s, the issues at stake seemed far more separate, more distinct. The nuclear issue, the Vietnam War, civil rights,women’s rights, the environment and so on. You could get involved in any one and not end up dealing with the others. These days, all issues increasingly seem to lead to the same planetary crisis: the wars, the 1 per cent societies,the too-big-to-fail financial institutions, climate change. Aren’t they beginning to blend into a single, all-encompassing crisis? Which means: start in anywhere and sooner or later you’ll find yourself heading for the heart of the thing. It may really hardly matter where you begin.

The answer, class of 2010-13, is: just begin. Just believe that for every measure, there is still a potential countermeasure. That you matter. That we matter. That we’re not too old. That it’s not too late.That it truly isn’t right, even now, to leave all this to our children. That the future by definition isn’t and can never be known, which means it’s no more Rex Tillerson’s than it’s ours.

So, mates, potential graduates of life-thus-far,prepare yourselves. You may not move as fast as you once did, but that’s okay.When you’re ready, just head for the entrances, not the exits. It’s time to begin.


With Love,
Your friend

Alex Taremwa (S10BO4/802)

Managing Editor,
The Transparent Magazine.


2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to my Graduating Class 2010-13

  1. Pingback: An Open Letter to my Graduating Class 2010-13 |...

  2. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, Ill try to get the hang of it!


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