Over the past week i've had the privilege of participating, to some small degree, in the events of Shad Valley 1995 at Waterloo. I began by setting up a computer for a virtual-reality workshop, jumped at the opportunity to give a small talk on nanotechnology, and ended up working on their monthbook through the night. As i realized that i was being drawn in deeper and deeper, and thoroughly enjoying every moment of it, it occurred to me how much i've forgotten about this terrific experience i had in 1992. I owe it to the students and staff of 1995 that i've been given a solid jolt back to a world of happiness and optimism.
There is something magical that happens at every Shad Valley program that seems too sublime to describe. The joy and bonding that takes place is so powerful that i found myself instantly drawn to Shad 95 and at the same time ferociously envious of its participants, filled with nostalgia, and remorseful that my program ever had to end. I have thought about the program for some time now, and still have not discovered how this magic is wrought, but i think i have found some of its components.
The experience of meeting an ideally-sized group of people in a totally new environment is unparalleled, especially when such a vast repertoire of interests and talents are represented, distributed among exceptional boys and girls from many locations. Everyone begins without the assumptions of past-forged relationships, on about the same social standing, and with sufficient stirring, everyone stays together as they get to know each other better and better. This happens incredibly fast, and the group as a whole bonds tightly.
There is unlimited opportunity for stimulation; not only are the hapless Shads constantly being inundated with enormous vats of knowledge, but there is event after event after event -- endless variety, and always in excess! Chances appear daily to meet new challenges, work in teams, work creatively. And the entire group stretches its bounds together until they truly realize that they are limitless. Larry Smith put it best when he said that Shads are afflicted with "a curse -- the curse of great potential". Upon our shoulders and the shoulders of those around us is the difficult task of keeping that fire burning forever.
But these components do not describe how i feel, just as ingredients tell you little about the miniature ecstasy that can be attained from a well-baked chocolate-chip cookie. Shad Valley leaves me with an energetic blend of inspiration, empowerment, and love. There is an immediate "affection field", a warm glow that goes up around me when i am in contact with Shads, that tempers me, gives me tolerance, and at the same time gives me the power to accomplish. Truly, the ability to achieve is determined by motivation more than anything else. Sadly, there will likely never again be such a perfectly-constructed miniature society for me, where i can feel so close to so many wonderful personalities while constantly relishing new experiences and new knowledge.
Shads are influenced by the teaching they get and the discoveries they make while at Shad Valley, but more importantly become enlightened when they touch and are touched by each other. Finding opportunities to touch the hearts and minds of others has been one of my strongest objectives in life, and Shad has given me one of the greatest chances to do that. For this i thank all Shad Valley Survivors.
And to everyone at Shad Valley Waterloo 1995: thank you for letting me feel like a part of that beautiful experience again. Thank you for giving me a chance to reach out to you; i had fun preparing that lecture and especially giving it, and enjoyed my nights in the Grebel cafeteria. I hope that every one of you has learned how special you are, and hope you'll never forget that you have no limits: this world is an endless source of possibilities, and you have the potential to take on any of them and succeed. After a mere week of getting to know some of you, i miss you quite acutely; i miss not being able to pop over to Conrad Grebel occasionally, learn from you, laugh with you, debate with you, and find out what neat things you happen to be up to next. You have touched me, and catapulted me forward with a new momentum that, i hope, will this time last forever.