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The Universe in 'University' by Kathryn Bowes





I've always thought that the Japanese word for higher education, 'daigaku' (big school) is rather boring in comparison to the English word 'university'. In 'university' you can see the 'universe'. Universe means 'whole'. Coming to University means that our hearts and minds open to discover the way our lives come from and are part of the deep and ultimate reality of the Universe!

I love to look at the sky and fall into a dreamy state. Okayama's blue skies are so lovely. Nothing moves me more to awe, however, than a dark night sky filled with stars. The idea that I am looking into the distant past through light years really makes me love the word 'University' even more. I love to wonder about the Universe. There are so many mysteries waiting to be discovered! The same is true of the University.

Many people have a connection to their ancestors and a strong feeling of belonging to their family and to their hometown. Nowadays, though, with all the scientific advances we have enjoyed in recent centuries, our sense of the whole encompasses a lot more than it did before. For example, we know that our bodies are made with stardust. Star explosions billions of years ago gave rise to the chemicals our bodies use to live! There is a way in which we can say we come from the stars (as well as from our human family!)

Over time, our sense of community has (hopefully) changed and expanded, too. Now we have the ability to open our minds to cultures and conversations quite different from those of our native culture. We also have the ability to keep in touch and communicate with others so much more easily than before, thanks to technology. (This is one of the really great reasons to consider taking a course in international communication!)

We tend to think of the Universe as something 'out there' but, in truth, we each contain a 'spiritual' universe inside us, too. Attending University begins the process of learning how each of us fits into the wider Universe. It marks an opportunity to take the time to figure out what it means to be fully human, what kind of future we want to make and how to become a good citizen and caretaker of our home, Earth. It is a time when we have the chance to expand our sense of family and belonging. Now, not only are you from a particular family and a particular hometown, a particular school, but you enter a new sense of wholeness with new friends and possible futures, and new things to discover about the world, the universe and yourself. Your sense of the world will become bigger - maybe that is what the Japanese name for university is hinting at, after all!