When a person concentrates on one single thought, a broader more important lesson might be missed. In “The Student,” Ivan Velikopolsky, a seminary student, tells the story of how Apostle Peter denied knowing Jesus three times the night before Jesus’ crucifixion. After telling this story to two widowers, he finds that the widowers are crying. He is certain that he has found a great connection on how, “The past…is connected with the present in an unbroken chain of events flowing on out of the other” (Chekhov 266).
In making this comment, Ivan believes that he has found the deeper meaning within the situation. Ironically, he is missing the reason why these two women are crying: they have suffered. Their suffering might be because of the death of their husbands or denial of a depraved relationship. By explaining this story, Chekhov brings to light that the student has missed the real learning experience. He does nothing to solve or give relief to the women’s misery, the true calling of his education. Boyle holds a similar belief to Chekhov. He tells the story of Scrappy who turned to Homeboy industries in order to turn his life around. While removing graffiti, Scrappy was shot down and killed.
The police immediately drew to the conclusion that he was killed by the gang whose graffiti he was covering up. By fixating on this single thought, the officers missed the chance to take a moment to understand the fact that Scrappy had, “missed his chance to live another way” (Boyle 169). Boyle’s point is that the police could have used the knowledge of Scrappy’s story to better understand the gang members in their community. A single story such as Peter’s or Scrappy’s can impact people in more ways than one, and by focusing on a single notion, a deeper more important lesson might be missed. This lesson could be applied to help others. Sadly though, if this lesson is never learned, it can never be used.
In the discussion of success, both Boyle and Chekhov agree that success should not become the goal of one’s life or education. On one hand, Boyle argues that, “Salivating for success keeps you from being faithful, keeps you from truly seeing whoever’s sitting in front of you” (168). Employing the word “salivating” as well as repeating the phrase “keeps you” allows Boyle to emphasize how much anticipation there is for success. Boyle worries that there is too much anticipation for the common definition of success which involves attainment of popularity or money. When this is the goal, Boyle suggests a person can no longer see what is right in front of them and loses track of the present.
On the other hand, Chekhov focuses on the idea of present success. According to the student, “…a mysterious happiness, gradually came over him, and life seemed to him delightful, wondrous, and filled with lofty meaning,” (Chekhov 266). Chekhov emphasizes the fact it was a “lofty” meaning. In this circumstance, the word lofty can be defined as “a noble or exalted nature” (OED). The student supposes that he has found the correct learning experience and feels successful because of this.
When the student has confidence that he has found success, a success that he was not necessarily looking for, he loses the ability to make an emotional connection to the two women. Even though there is the distinction that Boyle looks at future success while Chekhov centers on present success, they both achieve the same idea that success is dangerous. As seen by both authors, success or a false sense of it inhibits a person’s ability to learn. Although it is important to apply the knowledge that one has gained through life experience both Chekhov and Boyle agree that this should be done in matter that is faithful to person and those who they are applying their knowledge to.
In “The Student,” Chekhov uses the story in which the student misses the real learning experience in order to demonstrate that the student is not faithful to his education. The student is a seminary student, and he believes that he is effective in finding the connection between the past and the present. He does not apply his knowledge of the story and of God to help the two widowers. If he would have been faithful to his knowledge and to them, he would have been able to console their anguished souls. As stated by Chekhov, “If the old woman wept…[it] was because Peter was close to her and she was interested with her whole being in what had happened to Peter’s soul,” (266).
In other words, Chekhov believes that what happened to Peter’s soul, was happening to the widower’s soul and the student failed to recognize he could help heal her soul. In agreeance with Chekhov’s ideas, Boyle would add that faith not only transcends the two parties involved, but the families that surrounds them. A kinship is built between the parties where the other person’s family becomes their own. The story of Soledad explains this kinship. Soledad loses two of her sons to gang violence, but when she sees another boy who is from rival gang fighting for his life, she prays for his life. She states, “And I began to cry as I have never cried before and started to pray the hardest I have ever prayed” (Boyle 186).
The strength that used to pray for this other child illustrates the faith that that Soledad has gathered through kinship. Though, Chekhov and Boyle both acknowledge faith is important in applying the knowledge that one has learned from school or past experiences, Boyle takes it one step further with the idea of kinship. Faith should be used in the application of knowledge as it unites all parties involved under the equal eyes of God. The idea of a university is not to acquire a piece of knowledge and leave resting in the far depths of one’s mind. It should be wrung out like a wet sponge, twisted and squeezed until there seems to be no water left.
When this moment comes, the knowledge may seem to be tried, but instead it has achieved a higher purpose. A purpose where it has now become part of the person and has made them better because of it. When a person’s viewpoint is skewed and focused too much on one thought or on an outcome such as success they cannot apply their knowledge. Sadly, their knowledge will have no meaning and, for this reason, they will perceive it as useless. On the contrary, when a person focuses on the present moment with a broad, deeply faithful view, they can help themselves and others with their application of knowledge. This becomes the true reason for a university education.