Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Take Your Eye Off the Ball

Cable TV never ceases to amaze me. While channel surfing a few weeks ago, I came across an interesting “sporting event.” It involved a pool, a runway, a red ball, and a slew of mightily motivated dogs.

At the appointed moment, each dog’s master tossed a red ball into the middle of the pool. On command, each dog raced down the runway, leapt into the air, and crashed into the water more or less close to its red ball target.

The winner was the dog who leapt the farthest with the greatest accuracy.

These running, leaping dogs reminded me of me and my classmates in the class of 1982. They reminded me of my sister and her classmates in the class of 1986. They reminded me of you, the members of the class of 2008.

Every August, this graced Hilltop fills up with young people who have grown accustomed, through long years of practice, to setting their sights on targets others have tossed out in front of them.

Coaches, directors, teachers, parents, SAT boards, college admissions committees – they all had their chance to toss the ball. And we learned, with the aid of an elaborate system of rewards and punishments, to run and leap with considerable aplomb.

After so many years of intensive, expensive training, we learned to play the game well.

There was, of course, a need for us to learn the sorts of discipline, mental focus and delayed gratification that come from pursuing goals that others set for us. Such training is part of being young. It taught us the skills that helped us get into Georgetown .

But these skills are a mixed blessing.

My experience as a Georgetown undergraduate and dean has taught me that the habits of being and acting that helped you get into Georgetown could actually keep you from making the most of your Georgetown experience. They could lead you to pursue a Georgetown experience that fits someone other than you. They could lead you to settle for less than you deserve.

As you begin your Hoya career, I say this: Enough with instinctively chasing targets tossed by others. Enough with listening first to others about your goals. Enough with unquestioningly running and jumping on command.

Now, I am not suggesting that you got into Georgetown simply through mindless obedience or solely by bending your will to fit the goals that others foisted upon you. But learned acquiescence to such external pressure is a part of every Hoya. A powerful part.

To get the most out of your Georgetown experience, you may well need to learn some new tricks.

Does that mean that I think you should stop trying to achieve goals? No. Does it mean that self discipline and serious work habits are not important parts of a Georgetown education? No. Does it mean that you no longer need the guidance of people older and wiser than you? No.

Well, then, what does it mean?

It means that when it comes to the weighty matters of your undergraduate life, you may need to stop chasing targets tossed by others – including your peers – unless they also happen to be targets that arise from your own deepest desires for your life.

It means that in order to have the Georgetown experience you deserve, you may need to learn to listen – maybe for the first time – to the desires that arise from the most authentic and often hidden part of who you are.

At Georgetown , we take such desires seriously.

We revere your deepest, most authentic desires for your life because our Catholic and Jesuit tradition tells us that they are a privileged arena for the action of the Spirit of God. Learning how to discern such desires – and how to act on them rightly – lies at the very heart of what Jesuit education is all about.

Your most authentic desires are the key to your vocation and your future happiness. That matters to Georgetown .

What do you want to know – and why? Why do you want to be pre-med? Why do you want to double major? Why do you want to study abroad? Why do you want to go to law school? These are Georgetown questions to be sure.

What do you believe – and why? What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of life are you called to lead? What kind of spouse would you be? What kind of parent might you be? These are Georgetown questions too.

Answering such questions requires much more than fancy fetching. It requires reflective and intelligent human living. It requires prudent choices. It requires moral and intellectual courage. You can do it, and we’ll help you if you ask. So ask.

Welcome to the Hilltop, my beloved fellow Hoyas.

Father Ryan Maher, S.J. (CAS ’82) is an associate dean for the College. As This Jesuit Sees It . appears every other Friday.

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