Mottos and Mascots: Lessons Learned
At our academic institution, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, I propose that the motto (“Soar Higher”) and the mascot (Eagle) be combined into a more unified and comprehensive meaningful whole, offering lessons learned for our life-long journey.
When I read “Soar Higher” without knowing the identity of the mascot, I initially think of Icarus and his dad, Daedalus. To escape from imprisonment by King Minos, Daedalus constructed two pairs of wings on which he and Icarus could escape and fly away from Crete. However, Icarus “soared higher,” too near the sun and the heat melted the wax which held the feathers in place. Tragically, he plummeted into the sea and drown, while Daedalus flew on, and landed safely in Sicily.
“Fly Like an Eagle” encompasses more than “soar higher”. Eagles do fly at high altitudes as opposed to some of the low-flying birds. We are all unique and gifted, for I am different like you, but not from you. Is soaring necessarily better or more productive? The act of becoming and creating is as important and meaningful as the finished product or the end of a journey. Soar we must, but not always higher.
When storm clouds gather, eagles become excited, using the winds to lift them higher; they catch the winds of knowledge which may expand their pursuit of knowledge and understanding. We can use stormy periods to rise to even greater heights. We can embrace the SOOS theory, that is, the stormy periods of our lives offer us a choice, to use these challenging times as a Stepping Stone or a Stumbling Block. We can also use these stormy periods as an Opportunity or an Obstacle to our physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and social growth, as well as the development and quality of our overall ethical character.
While eagles soar, they also dive toward the water, suddenly skimming the surface with talons outstretched to snatch a fish – for you will not be given a fish, but will be taught how to fish. Eagles feed on fresh prey, not on decaying food. Vultures eat dead food, but eagles will not. We are to be critical thinkers, skeptical but not cynical. Beware of feeding on false information, be discerning and feed upon facts and reason. The philosopher, Marcus Aurelius reminds us, “Everything we hear is more opinion than fact, everything we see is more perception than truth.”
Speaking of seeing, eagles have acute vision, being able to focus on objects up to three miles away; it stays focused until it has attacked its prey. In pursuing our goals and dreams, it certainly helps to have a clear vision, and to remain focused despite the obstacles and challenges we may face. Keep in mind that “Everyone looks at what I look at, but no one sees what I see.” –Baudelaire, the poet.
Eagles prefer perching on the highest limb of a tree that is hundreds of years old, for when we learn, we perch on the “shoulders of giants” as the physicist, Isaac Newton observed. It is important in the learning process, that we have an historical context to understand the rest of the story in our search for the truth.
The parent eagles hover over their eaglets watching them and feeding them; at times two eagles will perform acrobatics in mid-air to develop their coping, courting, and survival skills. In our pursuit of learning, we are challenged to be open-minded, flexible, curious, and having intellectual humility.
An eagle tests before it trusts. When a female eagle meets a male and they want to mate, she first tests his commitment. Then and only then, will she allow him to mate with her. If we are to soar higher, we are to assimilate the virtues of honesty, integrity, altruism, and the pursuit of right-mindedness in developing our social and interpersonal skills.
During the time of training her young ones to fly, a mother eagle nudges the eaglets out of the nest. Because they are scared, they jump into the nest again. Next, the mother eagle pushes the eaglets off the cliff into the air. As they shriek in fear, father eagle flies out and catches them up on his back and brings them back to the cliff. This goes on for some time until they learn to start using their wings to fly. In the learning process, we are challenged, tested, and engaged in practical hands-on experiences, for experiences are the only time we receive the results before taking the test. It is time to spread your wings and fly like an eagle.
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. Martin Luther King Jr.