Why are you here?
Why are you here at Bacone?
What brought you here?
What motivated you to come to Bacone rather than to stay where you were, to continue what you were doing?
There are many possibilities…a degree program in criminal justice, health science, or Christian ministry…a learning-work community…athletics…a family connection…the expectation that you should do something more, earn more, achieve more…
I submit that something more fundamental was at work in bringing you here to Bacone.
Four hundred years ago there lived a great philosopher and mathematician, Rene Descartes. Perhaps you have heard of him. Descartes was one of the great thinkers of his age, seventeenth century Europe. Descartes lived at a time of doubt. There were new theories in science, and dramatic changes to Christianity. Scientists like Galileo were questioning the earth-centered conception of the universe. Protestant theologians, following the lead of Martin Luther, were questioning the very foundations of Christianity. Descartes was not sure what to believe, what was real, what was true. He was a doubter, a questioner, a skeptic. He was one of those who refuse to believe something just because it is taught him. He needed absolute proof before he would commit himself to a system of thought. In his quest for knowledge, for truth, he decided to reduce his search to whatever he could know for certain, without any doubt. He arrived at one principle, one thing in existence that he could not doubt. Existence itself. If he was able to doubt, then he clearly existed. If he was able to doubt, he clearly was able to think. “I am a thinking thing,” he said. He was aware of his own existence; “I am,” he said. And he declared, “I think, therefore I am.” He knew he existed because he was a thinker.
“I think, therefore I am.” Consider this proclamation. There are two things that we all share, two things we are certain of. We are thinkers. We exist.
What does it mean, to think? Descartes wrote: “What then is it that I am? A thinking thing. What is a thinking thing? It is a thing that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, wills, abstains from willing, that also can be aware of images and sensations.” As a thinker he was able to consider, to conceptualize, to analyze, to objectify, to observe, to seek, to question, to answer. To think, to be aware of existence, is to consider time, to reflect upon the past, to anticipate the future, to be aware of action in the present. Thinkers continually examine what is outside themselves according to what is on the inside, that is, they judge the “other” according to the “self.” Thinkers are able to break from the concern of only satisfying their own needs; they are able to break from selfishness; they able to reach out to others, to learn from them, to understand them. Thinkers can consider the foreign without fear. Thinkers can break from fear of the unknown, to make it known. As the Apostle John said in his first epistle, “love knows no fear.” In short, the more one thinks, the more one loves.
“I think, therefore I am.” Someone else proclaimed “I am.” In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells the Jews that he has always existed, that he is the “I am.” And indeed, when we think, we become “I am.” Thinking allows us to know who we are, where we came from, where we are going. Thinking allows us to transcend the moment, to consider not just the present but the past and the future as well. Thinking gives us the ability to see what is transcendent, what is divine, within us.
I believe what brought you to Bacone is not so much academics, athletics, or programs, but the fact that you are a thinker. As a thinker, you ask questions, you seek answers. And there is no better place to question and seek answers than a small liberal arts college like Bacone College.
On behalf of the faculty, I welcome you to Bacone College, to think.