And so you leave our hallways, students. I can you see you up ahead of us wearing your mortar boards and robes, and this is how I will always at last see you: turned away to what is ahead, clothed in the thin silk we gave you. How easy it is to tear, to scuff and pull to ragged edges; how little warmth it offers for the cold. And this is what we gave you: the threadbare wealth of an education.
I don’t know what job you’ll have, and I’ll never be able to know. The future is as lost to me as it is to you. I never wanted you to have a job anyway; I wanted you to have an education. That is what I wanted for you, all I ever wanted, and it was all I could give you.
Actually, I give much less than even that. An education takes a group of us, leaning precariously on one another. I give only a little education, only a few small threads. Golden threads, spun by hands that aren’t mine, reaching I know not where. I gave you bits of the gold light Plato himself could not see.
I gave you questions, and these are all I have. I gave you golden chalices: empty, waiting for their fill. These are all I have, and they are not mine. My life is a thousand empty vessels glittering like the sea. A thousand upon a thousand, endless and yearning: every question I’ve ever learned how to ask. It’s all I’ve learned how to give, all I know at all: the opened mouth of a question, glittering with tears.
But what else are we except this? Hungry and searching, like the eyes of a beggar on a street. What else can I give you except a practiced hand at reaching, a steady gaze, a tranquil not-having? I gave you my poverty. You are already poor. And I’ve practiced my poverty so you could practice yours.
It will keep you hungry, and hungry is what we are. I can only give you questions, how to ask questions, and they will follow you wherever you are. They will soothe and disquiet you all at once, and all I want for you – all I’ve ever wanted – is for you to never cease asking your questions. To ask better ones. To learn what it means to practice not-having.
Only then will you find what you are looking for. I could never give it to you, and you could never give it to yourselves. But an open vessel can be filled.