Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Guest Essay: An open letter to my Spartan community

Matt Chansler, a collections assistant for the MSU Herbarium, works with Jordan Zapata, a plant biology junior, to collect flowers from the memorial at the Rock on Farm Lane on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023. “We wanted to pull these so they can be preserved in perpetuity before they’re removed or anything else happens to them,” Chansler said.
Matt Chansler, a collections assistant for the MSU Herbarium, works with Jordan Zapata, a plant biology junior, to collect flowers from the memorial at the Rock on Farm Lane on Friday, Feb. 17, 2023. “We wanted to pull these so they can be preserved in perpetuity before they’re removed or anything else happens to them,” Chansler said.

Guest essay by Morgan Shipley, Foglio Endowed Chair of Spirituality and MSU Associate Chair for Undergraduate Studies

Any response. Any reflection. Any effort at analysis.

All come up short.

The ongoing scourge of gun violence in America elicits endless outpourings of support. It results in meaningful moments of reflection, empathetic outreach, confusion and anger. But it never leads to substantive changes.

I do not feign to have insight into solving this problem — nor do I want to fall into the trap of offering empty sentiments or drawing on common tropes and tired clichés.

When tragedy occurs, we are reminded of the horror humans can inflict upon one another, as well as our contingent togetherness. The violence, the loss — no words can capture. Neither can words truly detail the bravery, resilience, and empathy of Michigan State University students.

From the pause on life created by COVID, to the near daily reminders of imminent violence made visceral through active shooter drills that taught students how to barricade doors or collect scissors if they had no choice but to fight, the generation of students affected by the Feb. 13 mass shooting at MSU grew up in a culture of vulnerability.

In the immediacy of Feb. 13, MSU informed students to run, shelter or fight. For this group, they knew exactly how to respond, a cold reminder of the world we now inhabit. The very site of growth, of learning about ourselves, others, and the world, has become a prescient training ground on how simply to survive.

What remains is our shared effort to heal: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Students came here to learn, and our mission to educate will return. Our sole concern right now must be on the wellness of students, faculty, staff and our surrounding community.

All we can do in this immediate moment is attend to the whole person, to their spirituality. Derived from the Latin word spiritus, meaning “breath” or “breathing,” spirituality addresses the very nature of being in this world, alive, with others.

This — hard stop — is the one truth we collectively share. It is also the one truth we so commonly overlook, ignore or fail to cultivate.

In moments like this, it is especially important to know that you are recognized, you are seen, you are cared for and you are loved. The trauma you feel; the lack of certainty and security; the anxiety; and the loss and heartbreak are all very real and no well-meaning sentiment, no words, will be able to assuage these feelings.

Healing will be a process, one Spartans will undertake together.

Committing to a healing love speaks to our connectedness, our responsibilities to others that resound in reciprocal ways, if we allow it. Too often we restrict love, making it an almost insurmountable standard reserved for a select few.

Love, though, is. It describes the various ways we make others feel cherished and, in turn, feel cherished ourselves.

Author and activist Bell Hooks calls this a love ethic — a way of being in the world which “presupposes that everyone has the right to be free, to live fully and well.” (All About Love: New Visions).

When violence rips this freedom from anyone, we are all implicated. Nothing absolves us from these tragedies and in times like this, we must embrace a love ethic by becoming people for others.

Love fully. Love unconditionally. Love radically.

Act with a transformational love. A love that includes no boundaries — no restrictions.

But never believe that we can love enough.

There is always more to give. A nod. A smile. An embrace. Time.

We rely on love because love resides within and between us.

I write, then, with a heavy heart but a simple message — I love you all.

In remembrance of Arielle Anderson, Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner.

In endless hope for those who remain hospitalized.

In recognition of the thousands of MSU students, faculty, staff and community members affected by this horror.

Go Green – MSU Love.

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