Spirituality within college life can exist while being deep, full and beautiful. On this campus, in particular, the opportunity for connection, religious experience and the discovery of each person’s inner castle is always at hand. The heightened intellectual and social activity of college life lends itself to a greater awareness, as if the demands of academia mimic elements of asceticism of the great saints and masters of the past.
An opportunity exists for great spiritual failure as well when faith, in our own perfection and ability to love, begins to falter. Many of us have known feelings of inadequacy and helplessness that bubble up as a result of conscious neglect and general business. Spirituality, experiencing the silence and stillness within each one of us, is a powerful antidote to those fears that stem from our education.
A valuable aspect of spirituality is its ability to curb normal human insufficiencies and insecurities. Spirituality’s capacity to replace loneliness with connection is particularly essential during four years filled with stress and possible self-doubt. A 2015 study by the American College Health Association found that 58 percent of college students felt very lonely at some point within the last 12 months.
This is disconcerting since we all should embrace solitude and silence and view such aspects in a more positive light. Silence and solitude can yield deep self-reflection thus contributing to a peace in our everyday interactions. To clarify, such an embrace is not just for the religious among us or for those who believe in a higher power. Those with secular values can follow in the footsteps of Walt Whitman and use deep contemplation to embrace a connectedness with their surroundings rather than a deity.
Through an embrace of holy learning and experience in my college life, I have scaled various parts of an intellectual and faith mountain: the peak and the valley along with the drudgery and confusion of climbing. I have watched peers experience the best and the worst of spiritual life, from rejoicing in the tiniest fact of existence to cursing each day on the Hilltop. What I also wish to answer for myself and for my peers, then, is: What is the value of spirituality if it cannot always overcome the loneliness and the fear that accompanies academia today? What is the purpose of meditation, contemplation and spirituality if it is only to be lost among the inevitable pain of life?
In the pursuit of the answers to these questions, though I have yet to discover all of them myself, I always keep in mind the wisdom of author Jack Kerouac: “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” Dorothy Day reduced such an answer to: “The only solution is love.”
While the aforementioned questions cannot be answered on behalf of every person, I return to the fact that college life, especially at Georgetown, affords us the invaluable opportunity to explore the grandeur of our interior life. What I am trying to stress, though, is that our spirituality here at Georgetown seems to exist on a knife’s edge. The opportunities for us to lose faith are innumerable and constant — be it personal tragedy or professional and academic setbacks. Still, the experience of achieving faith and contemplation is valuable because it teaches us to act with perpetual love and compassion for ourselves and others.
On the Hilltop, we should try to make our gratitude exceed our needs, peace outweigh fear and, most importantly, make love persist amid familiar fears: overwhelming schedules, insecurities, competition, traumas and issues of mental health that too many on the Hilltop experience. In the year ahead, I wish to see more of us value contemplation in action along with a love that does not falter amid setbacks and negativity.
Nick Scrimenti is a junior in the College. Spiritual Search appears every other Friday.