“You know, one of the problems is that we don’t try to educate people to enjoy things anymore.” So I was informed last week by a scarily smart and only semi-jaded Senior from New York. We were sharing barbeque at Old Glory.

His comments stuck with me. I’ve thought about them a lot. I think he’s right. Not enough of our energy goes into educating people to enjoy things.

In my daily conversations with Hoyas, I hear the relentless drumbeat of pre-professionalism that can be the background noise of your college experience. As a Jesuit, I’m comfortable with a certain amount of such noise. After all, John Carroll founded this place with an eye toward educating students who would make a difference in the life of this Republic, and he knew well that the way you do that is by rolling up your sleeves and getting to work. He knew too that in America, that takes education.

But it’s no accident that Georgetown’s roots lie in the rich soil of the liberal arts. Why? Because Carroll knew what we know: none of us can say for sure how any of you will spend your professional lives. Your major, even your graduate degrees, are not infallible indicators of your career, or more likely, your careers. Thank God for that. You will leave Georgetown with the freedom and the ability to give shape to your life, and if the need arises, to re-shape your life.

There’s no way I can say today what sort of job you’ll end up having 10 years from now.

But I can say – with the certitude of science – that you will spend the rest of your life as a human being. And I can say – with the certitude of faith – that at the end of your life you will come before God, not as an accountant, or a surgeon, or a lawyer, or a teacher or a diplomat. You will come before God as a human being. And human beings are meant to do more than work.

Which is why I was bothered by the notion that we might not be educating you to enjoy anything anymore.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s fair to say that Hoyas know how to have a good time. I live in Copley. I hear the children of God returning home on Friday and Saturday nights. Having a good time is a Georgetown tradition that is alive and well. That’s not what I’m worried about, nor is it what my friend was talking about.

So I thought back to my dinner conversation. My friend and I had been talking about the importance of the arts in Jesuit education precisely because of their power to cultivate the habit of savoring human experience. He was telling me how much he enjoys his History of Jazz class, but he could have been talking about many other Georgetown courses, courses whose content and methodology can enrich human experience for the length of one’s life. Such courses can deepen the human heart. Such courses are part of an education that can teach us how to enjoy being human in a way that is grounded in who we are and who we were created to be.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve recommended such a course to a student whose first response was, “But, Father, it wouldn’t count for anything.” Over time, the noise of our Hilltop can dull the brain. It’s sad, but it’s not inevitable.

I was reminded of that a couple of weeks ago when I was in one of my favorite places: a theater. Ford’s Theater, to be exact. I was there for a one-man show entitled “George Gershwin Alone.” At one point in the show, Gershwin tells the story of how “Rhapsody in Blue” came into being. He was on a train going from New York to Boston, and almost before he knew it, the sounds of the train, its wheels and whistle, the very noise of the trip, came to life somewhere inside him. “Rhapsody in Blue” was born.

Gershwin explains, almost as an aside: “I guess it’s always been that way with me. I hear music in the heart of noise.” That line leapt off the stage at me. That’s it, I thought. That’s it.

That’s what my friend was trying to get at. That’s exactly what a Georgetown education is meant to do: teach us to listen, amid the noise of our life, for the very music for which the human heart was created. The music is real, and it’s discernable to the well-trained ear, even amid the beating tom-toms of pre-professionalism.

Listen for it, and when you hear it, dance to it – with your life.

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

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