“Here I learned to distinguish what I was planning to do after graduation from the person I aspire to be after graduation”
I read those words in my latest copy of Marquette, the magazine published by the university I attended many years ago. Looking backward at my own years in university, it doesn’t seem to me that I would have said those words about myself as I graduated. Yet, somehow, in the intervening years, I did begin to aspire to be a particular type of person. And looking forward, it seems that becoming that type of person rather than what I do is the essential task of life.
What type of person do I aspire to be?
Unfortunately, words fail me here. I have no posters in my home listing the personal attributes toward which I aspire. I know people who say they want to be a person of “integrity” or “authentic” or “caring” — and they truly mean it and try to live it. The problem is, for me at least, that becoming a person is a mystery, beyond words. As W. B. Yeates wrote, “The winds that awakened the stars / Are blowing through my blood.” And Dylan Thomas also wrote:
“The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.”
You must be wondering, what is the matter with ordinary goals and aspirations like integrity, authenticity and caring? Absolutely nothing. Yet I sense, and have long done so, that there is something flowing much deeper in me than these words can describe. Only poets seem able to sense this flow, not self-help gurus or psychologists. My aspiration cannot be contained in such goals.
I suppose, as a Christian, I ought to sum up this post by saying that I aspire to be like Jesus but that doesn’t feel right somehow. Maybe it would be more correct to say that Jesus aspires to make me like him. Such a divine goal fits him. I can only say honestly that I am “God’s work of art” [Ephesians 2:10] and wait for the artist to finish me as a person.