Change and Opportunity

Sunday, 25. May 2014

by Daniel Davis Wood

As we make our way towards the end of this academic year, with only one month until the current term is over, our Dean of Students, Michael Schreier, took to the Andacht stage last night to offer the Ecole community some thoughts on the themes of change and opportunity. Michael’s presentation of this Andacht is an annual occasion at this time of year, and it serves as a sort of parting gift to those students who are just now entering their last few weeks as Ecolianers.

Michael began with an anecdote drawn from his own life. When he was twenty-two years old, he said, he was a member of a community orchestra and, one day, he was offered the opportunity to play a French horn solo in an upcoming performance. Michael recalled how anxious he felt at the prospect of such a change in his normal way of doing things — a change that spotlight his talents in front of a large and daunting audience — but he also marveled at being given the opportunity to do something new and different. The point, he said, was that although a major change in one’s life can be an unsettling experience, it can also offer unanticipated rewards if we approach it with an open mind.

Next, Michael elaborated on this point by introducing the Andacht audience to Bunker Roy, founder of India’s Barefoot College. As Roy explains in a TED talk on his educational initiative, he seized an opportunity to do something meaningful with his life — to provide education and training to India’s rural poor — but, in his case, the opportunity arrived only when he followed his heart and shied away from doing some of the things he had been expected to do with his life.

The lesson that Michael drew from Roy’s story was that a sense of adventurousness and improvization are essential for people to expose themselves to the widest possible array of opportunities. Then, returning to his interest in musical performances, he concluded his Andacht by playing a recording of a panpipe performance he gave a decade ago, accompanied by an organ and wholly improvized.

The students who will leave the Ecole at the end of this term cannot know for sure where their lives will lead them, of course — although, with Michael’s words in mind, hopefully they will leave the Ecole with a willingness to explore some unlikely yet rewarding paths.