Letter: ‘Life of mind’ exercises can promote understanding

From: Polly Verbanic


Please indulge me a fun college memory. I recall sitting, for what seemed like hours, in residence hall dining rooms clutching a mug of coffee and solving the world’s problems with animated, diverse thinkers. We sharpened our minds taking various positions, honing our reasoning skills and joking with one another (particularly if passions flared). All of us were certain of our truths yet open to the possibility of wisdom elsewhere.

It was the true “life of the mind” exercise. Every bit of these sessions were of equal value to the classroom content. I loved and treasured these exchanges so much that I’ve spent a lifetime trying to recreate them.

When I hear implied, or as was the case recently actually read comments that state “Don’t even talk to me, if you disagree with me…,” I despair. It is this erroneous, wholesale feeling of ownership of the truth that actually pushes the great solutions further away. The fact that so much of this thinking is flourishing on college campuses wounds me, saddens me. It represents the very betrayal of intellect.

I don’t remember “hating” any of my college chums for their opinions, no matter how “wrong” I thought them to be. I knew my fellow students to be good people, bringing different orientations, backstories, insights and perspectives to the party. They also brought with them a wisdom “puzzle piece.” Perhaps I am old. Perhaps it was a simpler time. But I suspect that these dialogues represented the best of human interaction.

I can tell you only that when college narrows, instead of broadens; when friends who have enjoyed a lifetime of knowing one another no longer speak; when families are splintered, we have lost our way. We’ve lost the best of us. We’ve lost our hope for solutions.

We’ve certainly lost the fun.