Chris Herren’s message was powerful, but does it have “staying power”? Experience says no

by Zach Fechter ’15

I couldn’t help but notice the pensive, respectful demeanor of our student body during the unfolding of Chris Herren’s powerful journey. He told his tale with conviction, able to capture our often restless attention-spans. However, I couldn’t help but come to see the likely reality of Mr. Herren’s impact on Saint Ignatius: fleeting. I say ‘likely’ in hopes to be proven wrong one day, but his “Get out of the basement” appeal will last as long as your hand on a hot stove.

And I know this stance is not very pleasing. It asserts that some of our student body will fail to heed the message and continue on with their choices. But I have good grounds on which to make this claim; how long does the typical “Kai-high”, or strong moral fervor following the Kairos retreat, last? And further, how many people truly go on to “live the fourth”?

I don’t ask these questions cynically, I ask them as a point of reference. In the same way that living the fourth typically only goes as far as a tweet, kids at this school will likely only be leaving the basement to get a refill. My claim is not germane to all students, but it does shed light on the difficulty of entertaining such an unpopular piece of advice, however genuine it may be.

Now, we’re a school of bright kids, so it’s not like Chris Herren’s speech fell on deaf ears (except I guess for that one kid he told to stop talking). We all fully understood what the crux of his tale was, but what he spoke of is hard for many of us to implement into our own lives. And it is just the same for Kairos; in the moment, the message sounds pleasant, but after it turns sour. Such a conversion occurs upon the realization that adapting to that message means running perpendicular to the actions of friends, potentially having to find new plans or people to spend time with.

Being comfortable with finding new friends is a virtue we could all use. As a result, we throw the message to the nether-regions of our mind in an effort to continue with the path of least resistance. And just like that, the experience of Kairos or Chris Herren is ignored, giving someone plans on Friday night or disregard for doing the right thing; but one cannot forget that some experiences can only be buried alive.