“Repair the world” Tikkun Olam for Vincentians
Can you summarize what it means to be a Vincentian while standing on one foot (or perhaps in an elevator ride)?
President Peter Salovey speaking to graduating Yale students borrowed a concept from the first century Rabbi Hillel. The Rabbi asked his followers to summarize the meaning of the entire Torah while standing on one foot. The President asked the graduates to summarize the purpose of their lives after graduation.
Salovey suggested their common purpose: to improve the world, or as it would be expressed in the Jewish tradition: Tikkun Olam, literally to repair the world. He elaborated
What I like about this proposal for life’s purpose is that improving the world can be accomplished from within nearly any political framework. Repairing, healing, or improving the world — often captured in the idea of alleviating suffering — can be pursued from a liberal perspective (develop social programs that encourage self-sufficiency but provide a safety net), from a conservative point of view (teach fundamental values in order to cultivate individuals of good character who make the world a better place), and even from a libertarian agenda (enable free market forces to reinforce good ideas and good behavior; in the meantime, live and let live).
The image Tikkun Olan or “Repair the world” caught me!
How would we as members of the Vincentian Family summarize the purpose of our lives?
We may have graduated just recently or many long years ago. We may belong to different branches of the Vincentian Family and have hallowed variations on the theme.
But as we begin a year focusing on Vincentian Family Collaboration we can recognize a Vincentian variation of the truth implied in Salovey’s challenge. “Together in Christ, we Vincentians make a Difference.”
“St. Vincent brought together as many people as he could, rich and poor, humble and powerful, and used every means to inspire in them a sensitivity to the poor, who are the privileged image of Christ.” (Constitutions of the Congregation of the Missions, Introduction, p.19)
Tikkun Olam is a task for all of us. We may differ on what it means to repair the world, but it is a task in which we each have a part. Let’s use this year to come together as Vincentians to repair the world.
Here again the President’s words apply to Vincentians.
Improving the world is a difficult project to take on because – unlike so many aspects of your education at Yale or of life itself – there really is no beginning, middle, or end here. There is no “bottom line.” What may be most challenging is that even after a lifetime of work, further repair may be necessary. Maybe even more than when you started. My predecessor, President Richard Levin (whom I like to refer to as “Twenty-Two”), often quoted Rabbi Tarfon, “It is not your responsibility to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.
(Thanks to Susan Stabile for drawing attention to this baccalaureate address in her blog.)
You can read the entirety of President Salovey’s address here.