To the Mountain Top

Mr. President, every day my students ask me questions. They know there is more to know, and that’s okay with them. 

What does “discern” mean?  What are we doing after lunch? Tal, can I bring my dog to school tomorrow?  How should I live? When are we going to work on writing the play again? How do I know if I am living a good life? Has anyone seen my eukaryotes drawing? When did the Civil War end? How do I fight for what I love?

The questions ricochet from mundane to existential. My students are budding philosophers, scholars, social workers, and scientists. They are ecstatically immersed in the chaos of becoming, subdividing, and expanding.

When they ask questions I give them what I think I know. When I ask questions, they give me what they think they know. Together, with hope, we build a dialogue and a school devoted to finding the Truth.

Frequently, even hourly, I ask them: How are you feeling? What are you feeling?  In our school, they have the freedom to speak what they feel.

One day, Charlotte responded: “Well, I am excited to live.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I mean, I am excited to live and get up and come into school today. I am excited that I get to be here, now. I don’t know what my life holds, but I am excited for it to happen. I am excited to live in the future and live my life. I am excited to be with all of these people. These friends.”

Her eyes were sparkling with joy and anticipation as she looked across the table. Her words were an antidote to cynicism and despair.


This morning we gather at our table. Encircled, we face each other. Morning light streams in through the high windows. Each of us is excited to live, eager to find out what the day holds, and we’ll do the best we can to hold each other in the light all day.

Now I imagine you stepping up to the podium, the array of flags lined up behind. There is no teleprompter. You are free to speak what you feel. You are immune from critical inquisition because you speak with agape in your heart—that love you have for all mankind because all are children of god.

You look out onto the assembled press corps and the cameras and the banks of lights and you begin. “I am excited to live. I am excited to help you live. I am excited to make a world in which we all want to live. I am excited to do all that I can with you to make this happen.”

Like Yeats’ ancient Chinaman, your eyes are ancient and glittering. Your wrinkles hold wisdom and heartbreak, tenderness and love. You have no need of spies, intel, dossiers, insult, propaganda, newsmen, denials, corroborating evidence, deals, disavowals, or further investigation. In mist and wind, under gnarled junipers, with gentle humility and loving kindness, you ascend to the mountain top, and we are delighted to see you there.


Author: talbirdsey

I am writing a postcard to the President everyday.

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