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.These will not protect you. They will not promise you any safety of any kind. What good are empty hands, cupped together in offering?
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.