In these transitional and liminal spells, I often experience a sort of interior compression of the time of life-history, and people and events from the past start to come up in my prayer. There are graces for which I need to be grateful again, moments ready for new interpretation, old sins I need to confess, people before whom I need to repent.
This morning it was one of my college classmates, someone I don't think I ever met.
During our very first semester, he had written a letter to the editor of the school paper. It was published in one of the first issues of the year. Apparently he had been quite shocked and scandalized by what he had found in his first experiences of college life, and wrote strongly about how inappropriate and undignified was this life of binge drinking, recreational drug use, and casual sex.
When the letter was published, it was the hilarious entertainment of the day. Here was this stupid freshman who put his uptight annoyance and out-of-date views on display for everyone to have a good laugh.
I laughed at him too. I guess I didn't know any better.
My own critical turn against college life came a little later. For me it started as a worry about privilege and responsibility. What right did I have to this life of leisure and social and intellectual enjoyment when so much of humanity was suffering so badly? Concerns about the so-called sexual liberation came a little later. I had accepted without a thought that abortion was a matter of 'choice.' Nevertheless, it didn't seem to me like a very good thing or something to be taken lightly. To hear of the procuring of abortions talked about in a matter-of-fact or even joking way made me start to wonder if something wasn't wrong somewhere. How many of my tiny sisters and brothers died around me on that little island of privilege? Probably not that many, but to imagine even one gave me such compunction that I wanted to leave the world right then and there. Also, by the end of my time in college I had known a few women who had suffered date rape. Sure, there were vigils and awareness sessions about the problem, but I never heard anyone criticize the role that binge drinking and the expectation of sexual permissiveness may have played.
So today I just pray for the kid who wrote that letter. I have no idea where he is now. I ask his forgiveness for how I laughed at him and took him lightly. I don't know if his concerns were anything like the ones I came to in my own time, but no matter.