the commencement address I should have given

Earlier today, I delivered a speech at one of our graduation ceremonies.  The British tend not to refer to them as commencement speeches, but it’s the same sort of thing, namely a mildly rousing, now-you’re-going-forth-into-the-world-and-don’t-forget-us inspirational address to the new graduates.

I didn’t write the speech, and I’m glad of that for reasons I’ll get to in a few paragraphs.  It was a good speech, referencing the university and its mission, highlighting achievements from some of the students, and by all accounts I delivered it fairly well.

But had I been given the opportunity, and more importantly had I been willing to seize the opportunity, offered or not, there is a different speech I should have given.  I’ve always been captivated by the non-Vonnegut non-commencement address, because it sings to me.  I was tempted, I’ll admit, to forget the speech I gave earlier today (with all apologies to its author) and give the non-Vonnegut non-commencement address, but I didn’t, perhaps to my eternal regret.

But it did start me thinking.  What things would I try and blend into a commencement address?  What sorts of messages and lessons would I want to pass on, even if to a group of students and parents who at this point in the ceremony are looking forward to celebrating, rather than sitting and listening.  And there are a lot of things I would want to bring in.

I’ve always been taken by The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.  I chose to give it as a reading when my sister got married and it’s something I find myself coming back to regularly.

Somewhat weirdly, I’ve always been fascinated by the four enemies of the [person] of knowledge  by Carlos Castenada.  I read the Teachings of Don Juan at a young and impressionable age, and this one part in particular has never left me.  Though I’ve not explored this in any depth, I’m sure there are connections between this and the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, and with many Buddhist teachings.  Something to add to the list of things to do in retirement.

There are other things as well.  I’ve been collecting sayings and aphorisms and bits and pieces for years, which I go back and read through from time to time, and there is a lot in that list that is valuable and interesting and perhaps sufficiently worthwhile to subject others to.

I’m not sure what the perfect commencement address would be.  I suspect that it could only occur at some strange temporal and spatial intersection between me and my state at that moment, my audience, the phases of the moon and the sun, and many other things besides.   And I can only hope that some day in the not too distant future, I find myself at that intersection point, written and ready.

 

~ by Jim Anderson on 24 July 2017.

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