Reflection for Graduation 29 November 2012, 3pm

It’s a joy to share with you all in this graduation ceremony. I congratulate you on the achievements that have brought you to this celebration and wish you well for the future.

It is with some trepidation I stand before our distinguished honoree because I have a confession to make: after a lifetime of being a Bill Gates man, I have become…a Steve Jobs man. Being a recent convert, I am still unsure about the value of the change from PC to Mac and one major problem I have is with the language. There are different words for the same basic actions and I am constantly translating, often trying and failing several times before getting it right.

There is a story in the Hebrew Scriptures of how human beings desired to work together to engineer a glorious monument to themselves. As they worked on it, differences of language began to divide them: they couldn’t understand one another and it was never completed. Instead the ruin of Babel became a monument to human pride and folly and gave us a word for confused speech.

While language divides, it can also unite. The congregation I serve has been blessed by the presence of international students, one of whom graduates here today. From time to time we have asked them to teach us a song in their language not only as a symbol of the unity of our faith, but as a sign that across the globe we are one human race. We still stumble with the Babel effect, but this small step opens our spirits to the unity of humanity within its obvious diversity.

Whatever language, computer or human, you use to communicate, whatever art or science, there is always the danger of project failure through misunderstanding. But there is also the possibility of success and cultural enrichment when understanding takes place across the language divides. On the threshold of your post-graduate life, I invite you to work for that success not only for the good of your company or institution, but for the good of the world. Please do not use your language as a tool of conflict, conventional or cyber. Perhaps the first sentence that our post-Babel communication needs to express is, ‘I come in peace’… and mean it.

About Jared Hay

I'm minister of Priestfield Church in Edinburgh (Church of Scotland), husband of Jane, father of two adult children and am interested in sharing ideas and information through this blog.
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