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Letters to the editor for 6/11

June 11, 2002

The freedom to freely sing our own songs


To the editor:

'Tis the season for targeting the graduate mind. Volumes of suggestions are leveled at these "new citizens of the world" as they prepare to "tackle" life. They are often told that the field upon which they are about to trod is harvestable, theirs for the taking.

Taking? Taking whom? Taking what? "Carpe diem," we say, as if life is an industry of seizing, conquering or besting someone or something. To be sure, great lives maximize available days, but does that include time or territorial seizure?

Most of the commencement speeches I read are of the "go-and-get-um" kind, declaring questionable realities. I am not against self-actualization, but I am for life realization.

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"You can be all you want to be" is frequently voiced. Really? Come on. Are we telling the truth to these burgeoning minds and lives when we say that life is without limits, that we can rise as high as we desire?

And is it always a good thing for one to be what one desires? That can be very dangerous. And what if one's altitude quests puncture another's sky? "The great national myth is the endless defiance of limitations," writes Parker Palmer (Let Your Life Speak). Two words that are seldom mentioned at graduate exercises are "limitation" and "failure." (Oops! Have I said the wrong thing? Maybe this "f-word" is more insulting than the vulgarized one.) We do not wish to speak of limits or failures, for such is not within the purview of what "the good life" is all about, or so it seems. I see and have seen chaotic and despairing lives decimated when their insatiable want met framed reality. There is an important difference between "being all we can be" and "being anything we want to be." Alas, our "wanters" need fixing.

Regardless of appetite, the great ecological truth is that we cannot do anything we want. Thanks be to God. There are limits and failures that are good for us as there are successes that are bad for us.

And to discern the difference is not only the beginning of wisdom, but the life of freedom as well. Let us not be afraid to tell our graduates that a most significant moment in their lives will occur with their first failures, and that the greatest moment in their lives will be what they decide to do with them.

The good news is not that we sing like Pavarotti, dance like Juliet Prowse, write like William Shakespeare or Tom Clancy, or pitch like Roger Clemens. But we can sing, dance, write and pitch like ourselves. And such is the news of freedom and life of integrity.

Don R. Stevenson

Senior minister

Christ's Reformed Church

Hagerstown




Museum makes us proud


To the editor:

On Friday, May 24, 2002, I attended the welcoming reception in honor of Civil War artist Mort Kunstler at The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pa. During the evening, I was honored to have a lengthy conversation with Kunstler about his visit in 1986 to the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and to update him on the renovations to the museum and the recent re-accreditation. Kunstler was extremely complimentary of Jean Woods and her staff for this prestigious and respected designation.

Fewer than 10 percent of museums nationwide have received the honor of accreditation. Only two other fine arts museums in Maryland have been accredited by the American Association of Museums: the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Museum of Art.

We are very fortunate to have a nationally known Museum of Fine Arts with an excellent permanent collection, focusing on 19th- and 20th-century American art. This strengthens the local economy, improves the academic standards of our students and enriches the lives of all the citizens of Washington County and the Tri-State area.

Over the last 20 years, I've been involved with and watched our local museum become a national treasure. Director Jean Woods, the small staff, the trustees and the dedicated volunteers gave an incredible effort to once again rank as one of America's best.

Ronald L. Bowers

Former County Commissioner

1978-1998

Hagerstown

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