Thank you Rick, Kim and Eliza, welcome to new students, faculty and staff, and welcome students and colleagues who are returning! As we start our first day of classes, I am excited about the possibilities of a new year: What will we do with this year? What opportunities will present themselves? First, a bit of history for context. My own high school experience informs my teaching mostly by my trying to do the OPPOSITE of what I experienced there. Although, my junior history teacher did use cutting-edge technology. At one point in the Iran hostage crisis (as it is known in the US) or Conquest of the American Spy Den (as it is known in Iran) he came into class, tuned into a static-filled AM radio station, and told us to listen to history unfolding. He then put his feet up on his desk and promptly fell asleep behind a newspaper that eventually slid off his lap. While there were plenty of nice people at Cranston High School West, both adults and students were mostly indifferent to learning. I was lucky enough to go to a great college — a place where I was surrounded by people who cared about ideas. There were professors who took me seriously, which was a new experience, and a remarkable gift to receive. There were many kind and gentle people there, but intellectual discourse was often brutal. Students spent altogether too much time keeping score about how smart people were, as if intelligence were one definitive thing, and that that thing could be quantified and ranked. Part of what I have found so positive at CA is that a remarkable excitement about ideas is complemented by a kindness and level of looking out for one another that is rare. Individuals are valued for what they contribute rather than ranked by scores or some kind of social food chain. While no place is perfect, I have been proud to be a part of a school community that attends to a positive balance of thinking and feeling. In his first chapel, former head of school Jake Dresden said that “we succeed through the grace of others.” I’ve always liked that phrase. It captures an essential aspect of this school that requires our constant care. In order for this place to provide space for individuals to be themselves, we each must be generous enough to create that space for others. Success, in this sense, means growing into a vision of where you are and in what directions your mind, body and spirit might want to go. And that vision promotes your own growth and not only allows but encourages that same growth in others. So how might we do that growing? Part of the leap of faith that we ask of each other is to believe that we offer each other worthy, valuable ideas. Notice I am not saying ideas offered by adults to students. While faculty and students each have particular roles and responsibilities, part of what makes this community vibrant is that the exchange of ideas is fluid amongst everyone on this campus — faculty, staff and students. I read a fascinating book this summer called Ambient Commons, by a Univerity of Michigan architecture and design professor named Malcolm McCollough. McCollough considers, in one reviewer’s words, “the way our attention encounters the environment, and the way environments influence attention.” He challenges the ways in which modern cities often place layers of information between the viewer and the physical spaces they inhabit. McCollough plays with ideas of the overlap of information and reality, how we attend to information, and how we create meaning. He offers an example of a beautiful stone archway on his campus that leads from a library to an outside courtyard. Any chance that one might appreciate this transition from inside to out is marred by a generic exit sign, required by law: “… the lesson is this: in the rush of ambient information, don’t forget, and don’t cover over, the natural meaning of things. Built form plays an important role in everyday life… [because] without any persistent context, you are nowhere.” If we only attend to the exit sign and never acknowledge the architecture, meaning is lost. To be clear, before we added some signs to this campus, our visitors were lost. It’s all about balance. This summer, as I drove across the country with my family, I loved places that were distinctive, and was numbed by those few places we visited that were generic. Natural gas money in Fargo, North Dakota has allowed that city to build a bunch of strip mall stores that could be anywhere, and hence make a visitor feel like they are nowhere. These stores may represent more money, but they do not represent wealth. The University of Montana’s iconic old building at the foot of a small mountain in Missoula is a unique setting — you wouldn’t mistake it for anywhere else. So here on campus, you might find your footing by locating yourself. The Sudbury River is north, Main St is south. Wheeler is the eastern-most house on campus, and Rick’s house is the westernmost. Nearly all weather comes from the west. But if the wind starts coming from the direction of Wheeler, that’s called a nor’easter, and it’s likely to be bad. Another idea I found appealing from McCollough is a simple exercise for restoring attention once we are located in a place. Becoming aware of a simple thing like sunlight moving across a wall (or through the chapel), which McCollough describes as high resolution with low demand, may allow us to restore our attention which has been eroded from lower resolution, high demand sources like electronic screens of various kinds. He asks that we think less about “paying attention,” something our elders have often asked us to do, and to consider the flow of attention. He writes, “…across disciplines, and in meditation practices as well, filtering isn’t so much tuning out as it a tuning in… Effortless attention occurs amid practiced engagement with a medium, whether the soil, a musical instrument, or your favorite design software. It becomes craft. To live well is to work well. Engaged, skillful experience makes better citizens.” So what do you notice? What do you tune into? While there are all sorts of discussions and debates about attention right now, this is an old aspect of education. The world has always offered more stimuli than we can absorb, and part of what an education does is provide habits of mind in choosing where you will direct focus. CA offers us all a tradition of creating conditions for learning rather than prescriptions for learning. CA is not a place that could be anywhere. We want to be right here, and students, we want you to be right here with us, constructing meaning from the interactions of a varied group of interesting people. We need to get this day started, but I want to offer one more image to take into the semester. “…I always loved venturing out from one stepping stone to the next, right into the middle of the stream — for even though the river was narrow enough and shallow enough, there was a feeling of daring once you got out into the main flow of the current. Suddenly you were on your own. You were giddy and rooted to the spot at one and the same time. Your body stood stock still… but your head would be light and swimming from the rush of the river at your feet and the big stately movement of the clouds in the sky above your head… It is that double capacity that we possess as human beings — the capacity to be attracted at one and the same time to the security of the intimately known and the challenges and entrancements of what is beyond us.” My hope for all of us this year is that we might find CA to be our stepping stone. Heaney closes his essay this way: “The stepping stone invites you to change the terms and the [terrain] of your understanding; it does not ask you to take your feet off the ground but it refreshes your vision by keeping your head in the air and bringing you alive to the open sky of possibility that is within you. And that still seems something to write home about.” Thank you. Let’s go to school!