2011 Distinguished Alumni Kelly Graves (’77) presents The Fractal Geometry of Matthew Arnold’s Head
Posted on March 13, 2012 by Tia Lalani
From 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Kelly Graves’ speaking notes for the February 29, 2012 Community Awards Banquet at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus in Camrose. You come to the campus as a student who hopes that this might be where you begin a career … or you come to this banquet as a donor who hopes …
You come to the campus as a student who hopes that this might be where you begin a career … or you come to this banquet as a donor who hopes that your gift and your guidance can make a change in the world.
I am here to give you some belief that both these hopes are in fact sound.
A student on campus needs less than a week to encounter the ideas of Arnold: “the best which has been thought and said” is the ground on which a liberal education in the arts and sciences is built. To a student who meets this thought for the first time, it seems like the whole of learning.
But the world is changing faster than Arnold could have seen. Not only will the baseline of knowledge change as we watch, but in fact the rate of change changes and then changes faster again in time.
So MUCH changes so very quickly. A sibling of Fermat’s last theorem has been found. More subatomic particles are laid bare every day. We now name not just 9 planets but 3,000 or more. We have found out new ways of helping the poor, who may in fact NOT always be with us if we are careful and smart.
In some ways, these are all old things made new. The foundations of learning extended and made into new thought, the baseline projected forward. Like Newton we stand on the shoulders of giants to see far, but things shift as we watch. To take an example from literature: the Dream of the Rood becomes The Windhover becomes … Dangerous. Old ways become news ways, but vastly different after transformation.
Clearly, no set of facts, no matter how well said nor how brilliantly conceived, is sufficient preparation for a life. But the second half of Arnold’s famous quote is often ignored.
… the best which has been thought and said in the world, and, through this knowledge, turning a stream of fresh and free thought upon our stock notions and habits….
The foundation itself is not enough, for building must happen on top of the base. But even that is not enough, for sometimes the foundations themselves must change. Sometimes even the tools must be re-tooled.
We need to be able to hypothesize, to test, to revise, and hypothesize again in a never-ending cycle that challenges everything society thinks and says, and continually produces a new and refined version of the BEST of what has been thought and said.
Instead we need a process so effective, so powerful that the process can modify itself.
Augustana provides you with a world-class base of learning, the tools to modify it, the ability to modify the tools, and the wisdom to know when to do so.
Augustana equips you to apply Matthew Arnold’s wisdom to … Matthew Arnold’s wisdom.
If you are willing to take what is offered, this campus will hand you the best tools conceived, tools to make the building, to modify the building, to modify the foundation … and even to modify the tools themselves.
THIS is what Augustana seeks to do.
I can tell you from watching my classmates and the decades of students since I was a student here that Augustana succeeds at this.
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