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Morning Assembly

Posted by on January 1, 2015

The choice is always ours. Then, let me choose
The longest art, the hard Promethian way
Cherishingly to tend and feed and fan
That inward fire, whose small, precarious flame,
Kindled or quenched, creates
The noble or ignoble men we are,
The worlds we live in and the very fates,
Our bright or muddy star.
Aldous Huxley
The 17 students of my first Happy Valley year slowly grew to 30 then 40. The new buildings wallowed on a muddy hillside, waiting for many Project Days to come before they could be planted and green. Like much of the experimental nature of what we did in those years, we did not pave the paths of the school until people had walked on campus for two years. The paths designated themselves. To the chagrin of some alums, I admitted other than classical music to Morning Assembly. When my mind drifts back to HVS, it often lands on Morning Assembly. Each day, rain or shine, students and teachers would gather together…at first in the new Commons, but by the mid-eighties, in a large yurt…seated in a circle on zafu cushions, having all removed our shoes before entering. A selection of gentle music was played, often orchestral or single instrument, on occasion played live by Eddie Guthman and the Advanced Band….and then there would be a reading. I still have a dozen books that are severely dog eared for morning readings (Huxley’s Perennial Philosophy or The Choice is Always Ours), as I would read on Monday and then solicit volunteers for the remainder of the week. It was rare that anything trivial was chosen. In fact, we had a shelf in the library dedicated to good quotes and readings for assembly. After the reading, we would all sit in silence….a remarkable feat for a room full of teenagers, but it happened every morning. Morning Assembly was an important time for the community, a time to start together before we began the challenges of the day. I realize that it was not all that popular with every student at the time…some of those mornings were COLD…but I would like to think that more than a few look back on those mornings fondly. I understand that Morning Assembly was one of the first things to go after my departure, as David Anderson, who followed me, generally looked on it as a waste of time. It moved to mid-morning and met only on selected days. I would wager that the school still gathers in some way and there are a few old timers still on campus who attempt to keep part of the old flame alive, but the magic of those often cold mornings, sitting in a circle with colleagues and students, still lingers with me after these long years. My gaze drifts around that circle, bringing an endless chain of faces and voices…27 years worth…
I reach over to one of those dog-eared tomes, open to a random page, and read:
“Any friendship-between two or a hundred-entails a new emergent unity, where each of the constituent selves is far more in its functional oneness with the rest than it ever was in its apartness.”
Gregory Vlastos, 1909, Canadian professor of philosophy

8 Responses to Morning Assembly

  1. Missi (Gemme) Taylor

    Dennis,
    Thank you for the reminder of one of my favorite parts of attending HVS. When I started there in 10th grade as a day student, I had just moved to CA from the DC area and discovering a whole new world that strangely, immediately felt more like home to me than anywhere I had ever lived. Last month I just chose to leave my job at a company I have worked for for nearly 19 years to reconnect with myself and figure out what’s next. Reading your entry has reminded me how important it is to take quiet time each morning to set your intentions.
    Thank you. I, too, think back on those days fondly.

    Missi

  2. Andrea Sherritt

    Thank you. Wow! It’s refreshing to recall those feelings as I manifest the new year. When I need peace I yearn for the environment you created. The ritual meant a lot to me.

  3. Richard Robinson

    What was your first year at HVS? Mine was 1977-78. Had you been there the previous year?

    • drice

      I also began in ’77-78, but I seem to recall that you arrived after me. Oh, well. Memories are what they are.

  4. DIan Edmondson

    A far cry from “God save the Queen” every morning blasted from a 45 EP record from the veranda at Redcliffe high school 1976.

    • drice

      Those mornings are among my most memorable of my teaching down under. I also think of the students and the sports, and that little beach enclave where I lived. It was a special place/time.

  5. Richard Robinson

    I was wrong. My first year was 78-79. That makes more sense…, I could use a few more morning assemblies. I still remember details from many specific morning assemblies.

  6. Tyler

    Love this post, Dennis, and great to see you around town. Keep writin’!

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