Not a fairy tale – a story for the Spring 2024 graduates

Photo of Agroecologist Dr. Jessica SchackermannLast week we said goodbye to the students and interns of the Spring 2024 semester. During the emotional graduation ceremony, Academic Director Dr. Jessica Schäckermann shared with the room her love of fairy tales, before dedicating a special story to the new graduates.

Once upon a time in a land of sand, sun, and palm trees there were two tribes that fought over land and whose right it was to exploit its resources. The leaders of both tribes decided that they were in the right a long time ago, and they did not aim at stopping the fighting, the wars, and the hatred.

But there was a group of very resilient desert people, not believing in the way things were, and not agreeing to join in the madness. They decided to create a space for people from both tribes to meet, learn, live and love together. Some people came, interested in learning, curious about the world and anxious about meeting people from the other tribe. The years went by, and more and more people came and joined and created a community of love, support, and activism – the bearers of light.

As they studied and learned about resources and the environment, their brains grew, and so did their hearts. Bigger brains made them smarter, wiser, and gave them new ideas and the knowledge how not to hate and that no one should exploit resources but that they should be protected and shared. Bigger hearts could hold more compassion, more love and care stronger.

But bigger brains also understand the complexity of hate, division, and greed. This understanding then feeds the big heart with fear, uncertainty, and hopelessness.
With every war and outbreak of violence the desert people suffered a small defeat, and their big hearts got hurt. But they never gave up, being sure that love is stronger than hate, and knowledge holds the power to change the world.

Unfortunately, this tale has no happy ending yet. No “and they lived in peace happily ever after”. It is up to the desert people to continue their work, and up to the bearers of light to take the magic of this place into the world so that more hearts and brains will grow to hold the capacity for wisdom, empathy, and compassion. After all love is stronger than hate, and wisdom and knowledge can change the world, but to love is harder than to hate, and to know is more difficult than to believe in lies.

Be strong, let your hearts grow. Growing muscles is always painful, and your heart is a muscle. Remember that when it aches. Be curious and get smarter and wiser. You have the capacity to learn, use your ability to learn as a skill that you train. Whether you are willing to learn is up to you.

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