Our Beautiful Burden

by Katie Rich


If the world were comprised of 100 people, 50 would be male, and 50 female.  33 would be Christian.  22 are Muslim.  There are 14 Hindus, 7 Buddhists, 12 atheists, and 12 who ascribe to other religions.  83 can read and write.  15 are undernourished, while 21 are overweight. 1 is dying of starvation.  7 hold a college degree.



On May 18, over two thousand of us are going to slip seamlessly into the ranks of the 7, while 93 others look to us expectantly.  We are the educated, the lucky ones.  So tell me, class of 2015, What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

If asked, you would likely roll out the elevator speech you’ve been reciting since Christmas.  Oh, well, I’m going to law school, you might say, or I got a job for this company, or I got into grad school, or perhaps I’m not sure yet, I’m still weighing my options (note the diplomatic mask covering the face of sheer panic on that last person).  That’s great, but let me ask you again.  What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?


Think for a moment of the Parable of the Talents.  A master has three servants, to whom he gives five, two, and one talent, respectively.  Off they go into the world, and after a long time, the master calls them back.  He pats the first two on the back, for their talents have multiplied.  But when the third comes forward and presents the master with his one original talent, the master scolds his wickedness and orders him to be thrown into the darkness where there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth.


Now this wicked and slothful servant is not the prodigal son.  He did not fritter away his talent in useless pursuits.  He buried it, incarcerated it in the ordinary affairs of the world.  When called upon, he could dig it up and say, “Look, it’s still here! I didn’t waste it, I still have my talent!”  But this is not the response the master seeks. 


We’ve been bitten, classmates.  The radioactive spider of education has banished our days as mere Peter Parkers.  The responsibility of our talent looms ahead of us.  Unless we want to weep and gnash our teeth, we can’t just bury our heads in the sand and our talents in the pool of the 7, while the 93 others look to us for leadership.  Look around you!  We cannot wait for lightning’s strike for the scales to fall from our eyes.  See the 1 in the corner, starving to death?  What about the 17 who cannot read?  The 15 who maybe only have a cup of rice to eat each day?  You’ve been given the talents to help these people.  Investing your talent does not take it away from you, but only makes it multiply.  Not only is this your duty, but you have nothing to lose.  Nothing is holding you back.


Our time at Boston College has been filled with Jesuit buzzwords that, as The Heights recently acknowledged, can become a kind of ambient noise by the end of a fourth year here.  But I want you to tune in on one particular word that is generally covered by the louder phrases – magis.  More.  When we move our tassels from one side to the other, we are asked to do more, to find more ways we can use our talents, not just for our own sake, but for the betterment of humanity, even if we can only affect the smallest piece of the pie.


I can’t tell you what magis looks like.  But I can tell you it is not what you’ve been telling people since December.  I don’t want to know your career, because no career is a vocation.  I want to know your philosophy.  When we walk down Linden Lane together, I want to look at each of your scarred and scuffed faces and see a determination in your eye.  It’s time to cast off the bowlines and sail away from the safe harbor.  We’ve studied the Good Life.  Let’s go live it.

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