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A Graduation, a Commencement, and a Less-than-Mundane Farewell

As I write, I am feeling a culmination of sorts, as recent weeks have been filled with events for seniors graduating from St. John’s College. We had an emotional dinner with students and the faculty, a picnic, a softball game, and a formal ball all lined up last week before Commencement itself, which was this past weekend.

“Commencement” is a funny word. I remember that when my brother was graduating from the American University of Armenia, he commented on what that word might entail. The event itself seems to mark an end to things, But the word “commencement” actually means "beginning." The idea, I expect, is that one stage of one’s life and education has come to an end, but another – a greater one, perhaps – is only just about to get started.

I would love to look back and discuss my time at this wonderful institution in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I have spent eight semesters, at how unique an education it is in reading and discussing the great books. St. John’s really tries to provide a classical liberal, Renaissance education. I am all the more richer for it, and I am confident in saying that it could not have happened as it did in any other country.

I especially feel that I have grown and matured because a few days ago we were given back our admissions essays that we used to apply to St. John's. I can’t believe how pompous and naïve I sounded back then! I suppose it’s a good thing to have that reaction, rather than one quite the opposite.

I won’t dwell on all that, though. What I would like to share is my amusement and delight at the (temporary) parting shot that America provided me.

The Rapture! The same day that I graduated, a certain religious leader in this country and his radio network and website proclaimed the End of Days - the coming of Christ and the choosing of the worthy to ascend to Heaven. Those who were not deemed worthy – a vast majority of the world’s population, by the way – would suffer immensely until October, I believe, when the entire world was supposed come to an end.

Now, how does one react to such a pronouncement?

“Only in America.” That’s all I can say. Only in America can there be such a person who can claim calculations based on the Bible to draw such a conclusion. Only in America can he gain a following and spread such an idea. And only in America can there be a company marketing to and presumably making a profit off such a crowd. Not to mention all the other events - the skeptical, fun, and sarcastic activities organized to celebrate this phenomenon. Only in America can one come across all of the above. And I love it!

Though it seems the Rapture did not take place this weekend – although if it had, I have no doubt I would have quite remained on Earth – it was the End of my Undergraduate Days in the U.S. It isn’t all over yet, as I shall be back for graduate school, to glean more from this fascinating country and the wonderful education it provides. For all that, I guess it is safe to admit that I am already rather enraptured.