Welcome, class of 2021, to the Templeton Honors College. I want to congratulate you on stepping into this new season of life. You will grapple with the enduring ideas of the ancients, learn to converse eloquently and clearly with your fellow students, and question what it means to be human and to live a life of meaning and impact. These next few years will be trying; they will stretch you in many ways. Additionally, these next years will be fundamental to the beginning of your adult life and much of what you experience in these next couple years will carry over into the next seasons of your life.
I want to encourage you, as you continue to ask big questions, not simply ask questions for the experience, but for the potential of finding the truth. This past summer in between my crazy shifts at work, I read through C.S. Lewis’ novel The Great Divorce. This book follows a bus full of characters on a trip from Hell to Heaven. All of the characters coming up from Hell are offered a place in Heaven if they wish; however, many reject Heaven for multiple reasons. One young man stood out to me in particular. He is an academic man who appreciates Philosophy and deep conversation but he has come to love questions so much that he no longer looks for answers. Instead he enjoys the questions and enjoys the thrill of seeking but never actually expects to find any truth. At one point he declares “Ah, but we must all interpret those beautiful words in our own way! For there is no such thing as a final answer. The free wind of inquiry must always continue to blow through the mind, must it not?” (40). This caught my attention and caused me to think back over my first year at Templeton. It is easy and tempting to do just this: to revel in asking the same questions as the ancient thinkers and philosophers while forgetting to use those questions to lead us to truth. I want to encourage all of us, not just the Freshman cohort, to ask the deep, enduring questions but to also use those questions to try to find the truth. Let us not get too caught up in the process and excitement of the inquiry that we miss the answer. As a redeemed soul in Heaven later remarks: “Thirst was made for water, inquiry for truth” (41).
As you enter this new season of your academic journey, asking questions will be an inevitable part of the process. Some questions will be easy to answer, while others will only result in more questions. But above all, remember the ultimate goal: that inquiry was made for truth.