I’m doing a very bad job of keeping up this journal. Maybe its because my spiritual life has stagnated and there’s nothing to write about. Unfortunately I’m afraid its more true than my sarcastic remarks might reveal.
I’ve been at Earlham for a month and a half now. Why did I come to college? I still don’t know. Probably the main reason, unfortunately, is that it is expected of me. I’ve always enjoyed learning. And college is supposed to present challenges to facilitate learning and personal growth. There certainly have been severe challenges, mainly academic. But are these the right challenges, or, more importantly, are challenges of this sort desirable? On the one hand, I’ve been so busy it seems that I’ve had little time to do reading I want to do. On the other hand, I’d probably have less time if not in college. Still, at this time I feel I’m stuffing so much in and pumping so much out, that I feel I don’t have time to assimilate any of it.
Is it desirable to search for challenges? It seems funny that student activism can be so strong at times of crisis, and die out when the pressure is off, but the fundamental problems are still very much in existence. It would seem to be best if we could strive for solutions to problems even when the consequences of the problem are not significant to us personally.
I am sure I matured to a depth otherwise not possible when I was confronted by the draft.
Now I feel a concern about race relations, and yet feel I can’t get a deep understanding of the problem without being personally confronted by it. It is too easy to avoid the issue. I guess it is just human limitation that we only have knowledge and concern about issues by which we only have been confronted or choose to be confronted by.
Letter to parents, Earlham College, November 4, 2017
Being one who doesn’t talk much anyway, and being away at Scattergood, I guess you might not be aware of some of the significant aspects of my development.
I remember always enjoying learning and even in Jefferson began studying outside of school. When I went to Scattergood the situation remained basically the same with the important difference that I was separated from my family.
The big change, and likewise conflict, occurred when I was considering the question of the draft.
You’ll never know how I agonized with the issue. I thought about it almost constantly it seemed since the middle of my Junior year, but most intensely during the first months of my Senior year. I wrote daily in my journal, read constantly, and went to every meeting (for worship) that was held at Scattergood, not only Sunday but Thursday and, at the end of the year, every morning at the Marsh’s we had meeting.
As a result, I came to know what it really means to be a Christian (as I interpret Christianity) and also what Quakerism is all about, and this is now one of the most important things in my life.
We all have to develop some code to live by; you both have, I know. It’s obvious by the way you live, the jobs (including voluntary ones) you choose to do, and how you do them, and how your associates respect you. I remember you saying, Dad, Farm Service is not just a company to sell products to farmers, but to help them however you can.
I, too, have to develop a code to live by. I want Christianity (and Quakerism) to be the structure of my code. You do, too, but it is our interpretation that causes conflict.
51 “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. 52 From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” Luke 12:51-53
You want me to be practical; not so idealistic. But what you might see as idealistic, I see not only as practical, but necessary in order to be true to my code of life. And if you forsake your principles and all that you believe in, what do you have left?
The most difficult part of this decision has been that I would hurt you. But how far should a man go trying to protect those that he loves, at the same time denying the principles that give his life meaning?
That’s what I’ve been thinking of lately. For about the past month I had almost resigned myself to doing whatever you wanted me to do. Of course I know I was betraying myself and life really seemed empty, but it looked like the easiest thing to do.
I can’t be angry with you for trying to run my life. I know you’re just trying to see I get a good start in life and don’t get hurt by idealism. I can only be frustrated at myself for not talking with you more than I did.
I know what I have to do in order to have a life of my own, in order to have any self respect.