People say that Hillsdale College isn’t reality.
It’s just a bubble, I often hear from students. The Hillsdale lifestyle is so fragile that, after our first inevitable contact with the world’s hardness, the things that seemed important will collapse and drift away.
Before I contest that idea, I want to say that I respect their point. Attending a cozy, cohesive little school tucked into a quiet corner of Michigan is uncommon in the human experience. The cares that weigh on us seem absurd the moment we remember the sad eyes and bloated stomach of a child in Zimbabwe or Detroit. We can laugh at disputes over the philosophical root of “Love thy neighbor” (Is it respect for man’s inalienable rights or obedience to divinely instituted duties?) when the one constant of the news cycle is rape, lies, and murder. My friends who offer that reality check have typically suffered more, and are more compassionate people, than myself.
But the goodness that makes these few years so rare also makes them more real than the world’s evil. There is a way that creation once was, and that it will be again. We are the most truly human when we are closest to that reality. Our lights begin to fade when we abandon it, and hatred and selfishness can snuff them out.
But the darkness that follows is not an entity; it is merely the lack of a flame. If we accept traditional definitions, evil does not exist in itself; it is just the absence of faith, hope, and love. A devil is an angel drained of love.
My point with these flowery last couple of paragraphs is that by digging into the ideal things, we are experiencing the true Reality. Pain and evil exist, but they came late to the scene, and they will leave early. To call the eternal things a bubble is to give evil the upper hand, to allow the perversion to supersede the normal.
I admit that I’m young and idealistic. But I’m not sure that I’m naïve. I know that life won’t always be this easy, and I will have to move past evenings of best friends, Beethoven, wine in a Ball jar, and good books. Some day I might lose a job. I might lose a child. I will probably be called on to face hatred and malice, either for myself or for someone else. We all will.
Which makes now so vital; so that when those times of suffering come, we know what is real life and what is the bubble. In the words of a man who believed the Ideal was reality, even to the point of accepting death in its service: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Embrace the longing and striving for the beauty we now see darkly. Love is real. Goodness is real. Seek to know them and be known by them today, and tomorrow’s troubles will not overwhelm you when they come.