It is a question that has plagued theologians, philosophers and scientists for decades — nay, centuries.
We’ve all heard the quack re¬ports, but really, how could any rational-minded person take them seriously? The “alumni sightings” in offices, bars, graduate schools and open cornfields at night are clearly just deranged hallucinations. The older siblings who graduated and supposedly still live on — how is it they never seem to show their ghostly visages on campus?
We all hear stories, we see the news reels, we hear pretty tales about jobs and advanced degrees and eating grapes on pillows of clouds in the “life after Xavier,” but tell me, have you yourself actually been there?
Yes, I’m afraid it’s quite clear — we as a student community are caught up in a dangerous lie, a whimsical wish-fulfilling fantasy that such a thing as life after Xavier actually exists. There is simply no scientific evidence to back up this claim.
So where does that leave us, in particular us seniors who are all-too-soon destined for that great beyond, the void of post-college nothingness?
OK, enough is enough. In case it isn’t obvious, I have come down with an acute case of what can be a near-deadly disease: denial. I’m not coping well with my im¬pending graduation. “Pomp and Circumstance” is to become a funeral dirge, the cap and gown a burial shroud. We will walk across that stage, single-file and smiling, straight into utter annihilation. Yes, leaving Xavier feels like a sort of death. It certainly comes with a sense of loss.
I have always resisted the notion that college ought to be the “best four years of your life.” I think in general this says more about the speaker’s adjustment to post-college life (or lack thereof) than anything else.
And I want to be perfectly clear: I still believe this wholeheartedly. With greater trial comes greater reward, and I am firmly convinced that the challenges and
joys of adult life — career, marriage and family, community life, whatever might be in store for us — will reach much greater heights than our experiences in college.
Still, at this particularly sentimental juncture I will confess to feeling more than a twinge of the nostalgia embedded in such a statement. So what to do about it?
Here’s the part of the column where I resort to hackneyed truisms about how to get on with your life and appreciate each m¬ment as it comes. Here’s the part where I say: it’s been a great ride, but so long, Xavier! Cherish it while it lasts, underclassmen, be¬cause it’s a unique time and it won’t come again. Here’s the part where I start to move on — in a mature but ever-so-generic fashion.
But no, I can’t do that. This place is too special for that. This place and these people deserve more.
Over the course of four years, good faith invested in this community pays a special dividend. A small part of the self, the “Xavier” self, grows and flowers and be¬comes vigorous and strong. It takes nurturing — simply going to classes and fulfilling the bare minimum won’t cut it. It takes genuine investment, heart and soul, into the goings-on of this university.
It grows a little at every meal with friends in the cafeteria. It grows at every basketball game. It grows at every 10 p.m. mass, every visit to professors’ offices, every late-night study session, every overdue library fee and every beautiful afternoon spent throwing a baseball on the yard. It even grows every time we read this distinguished publication, for which I have had the privilege to write. This part of the self absorbs the spirit of this place, a truly unique spirit not found at every university, but only our own.
And the good news is: that self lives on. I have faith that graduation, the “real world,” even the hounds of hell cannot kill that self. It stays with us for whatever mad journey comes next. There is life after Xavier, in that we can trust, because Xavier has given us life.
Michael Petrany is a senior biology and philosophy major from Huntington, W.Va.