Orientation for new students was today.

The word Orientation comes from the Latin word Orient, meaning “East”.  For the Romans, who lived in a landscape and with a mindset infused with symbolism, the East was the place where the Sun rose, where light began, and where the messages of ancient days came from.  The very phrase, “message of ancient days,” was Cicero’s poetic phrasing that best described why he thought the study of history was valuable.

If you wanted light, if you wanted awareness, if you wanted knowledge, if you wanted valuable messages from ancient times… you looked to the East.  It was a tradition that continued into the Middle Ages, when the Church oriented cathedrals and parish churches so that their altars were at the east end.  Freemasons also look to the East, but that’s all I’ll say about that.  Yet even that clue is enough to state that the Founding Fathers of our nation looked to the East, and oriented themselves with regard to what Europe had done right — and wrong — before them.

Today, we asked students to look to the East, metaphorically speaking, by asking them to envision their hopes and dreams for the future.  They wrote their desires on paper airplanes, and launched them into the Air (let the wise among you take note).  Then we  gathered them up, each one of us a plane we had not thrown, and opened it to read the message scribed there.   Some were hopes for new friends.  Some were pleas to do well in school.  Some were wishes for new sports experiences, or new skills in math or music.  Whatever the plea, each of us wrote out a piece of advice to answer the question… and a new wish.  And then we launched the airplanes again.

I am not one to throw around the word “magical thinking” lightly.  I think, with J.M.G., that it can do dishonor to honest sorcerers.  Yet it was a beautiful thing watching our hopes and dreams and prayers fall to earth, only to watch them launched again by our new friends in this wonderful school.

This is the second time I’ve seen this exercise, and I find it deeply moving.  I think my colleague M., who came up with it, is brilliant.

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  1. Could the “eastern” view be related to the fact that the sun rises in the east. If early cultures were looking towards promise and possibility, towards life and warmth…it would have come each day with the rising of the sun.

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