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To UCLA

Any tragedy is a wound, an offense to our spirits that threatens our goodness. Particularly in a case such as Professor Klug, we cannot fathom how his caring for Mr. Sarkar could have ended as it did. Our intellect recoils from that connection – it offends our logic and sense of justice.

So we ask “Why?” I will offer you an answer.

For billions of years the history of the universe was a random bashing together of atoms. Even here on Earth, after the first single-celled organisms birthed the promise of meaning, for nearly a billion years every species that arose cast down those that came before it. Darwinian evolution is driven by the wounding of each other by creatures that have no choice. In truth, it is only over the last ten thousand years or so that humanity – that little blink in Nature’s eye – has had the opportunity and resources to express consciously and intelligently an intention to bring love into the world.

This is the struggle before us: to overcome our Darwinian programming. The struggle is not easy – our bodies are designed to produce powerful signals that pull us into animal behavior. In many cases, our science and engineering have given us the means to amplify those tendencies. Sometimes that is pleasant, but today we grieve because one man’s confusion was amplified by a gun.

So we feel pain, and gather together to share strength, as others have gathered in the past. It is important to remember that past, a past from which we celebrate figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Mahatma Ghandi. While they fall, and fall too often, in each generation technology allows them to reach more and more of us. We can doubt the existence of Jesus, Buddha or Lao Tze, but we cannot doubt that the message of love they shared with the world still inspires people in our day.

Institutions of higher learning such as UCLA, at their best, are a cauldron in which we hone our intentions to do good. In part, we grieve for Professor Klug because he represented the best that UCLA has to offer. The terrifying moments of his death threaten to cast us down into fear. The Darwinian world claws at our hopes.

I wish to offer you my sense of why we celebrate people whose response to fear is to choose to love unconditionally. They possess a certain power, a power that I best understand as this:

Love dissolves the barriers of time and space, allowing wisdom, energy and understanding to flow between us, and embracing us with the courage, clarity and calm that overcomes obstacles and creates opportunity. When we open our hearts to one another, there is no truth that is not revealed. And to those that truly love themselves, no impulse to harm that cannot be turned to the purposes of healing and creation.

It is to that last point that I wish to turn your attention. We can grieve, and that grief can turn to fear. Or that grief can be used for healing.

So to each of you, I would ask that you find a moment to take the hands of a friend and allow their eyes to enter you deeply. In that moment, set aside any future expectations of them, and say “Thank-you for your goodness.”

And to those of you that receive that affirmation, I would ask that you take the power that is woken in you, and to consider Professor Klug. Reach through the moment of fear that consumed him. Visualize his acts of caring as a teacher, father and friend, and offer the words “Thank-you for your goodness.”

And then consider the family that grieves for him. Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn,” because to grieve is to remember goodness that has been lost. Grieving is our goodness affirming goodness. So visualize that family, and allow your strength to pave the way into a future of healing. “Thank-you for your goodness.”

And last, and hardest: consider Mr. Sarkar, who fell down the well of fear. No person is without merit, even if only in small acts such as tying a sister’s shoe or in recognizing virtue in another. Visualize those moments, no matter how simple, and build strength in them. “Thank-you for your goodness.”

And then open the ears of your heart. Hear the world around you, the Earth that we have abused so terribly. Hear that world awakening to hope. As you walk amidst the trees and over the grass, as the birds chirp and little creatures scurry, hear it calling out tenderly: “Thank-you for your goodness.”

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