A Commencement Address
. . . I bet I’m beginning to make some parents nervous – here I am, bragging of being a dropout, and unemployable, and about to make a pitch for you to follow your creative dreams, when what parents want is for their children to do well in their field, to make them look good, and maybe also to assemble a tasteful fortune . . .
But that is not your problem. Your problem is how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to live it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it, and find out the truth about who you are . . .
I do know you are not what you look like, or how much you weigh, or how you did in school, or whether you start a job next Monday or not. Spirit isn’t what you do, it’s . . . well, again, I don’t actually know. They probably taught this junior year at Goucher; I should’ve stuck around. But I know that you feel best when you’re not doing much – when you’re in nature, when you’re very quiet or, paradoxically, listening to music . . .
We can see Spirit made visible when people are kind to one another, especially when it’s a really busy person, like you, taking care of the needy, annoying, neurotic person, like you. In fact, that’s often when we see Spirit most brightly . . .
In my twenties I devised a school of relaxation that has unfortunately fallen out of favor in the ensuing years – it was called Prone Yoga. You just lay around as much as possible. You could read, listen to music, you could space out or sleep. But you had to be lying down. Maintaining the prone.
You’ve graduated. You have nothing left to prove, and besides, it’s a fool’s game. If you agree to play, you’ve already lost. It’s Charlie Brown and Lucy, with the football. If you keep getting back on the field, they win. There are so many great things to do right now. Write. Sing. Rest. Eat cherries. Register voters. And – oh my God – I nearly forgot the most important thing: refuse to wear uncomfortable pants, even if they make you look really thin. Promise me you’ll never wear pants that bind or tug or hurt, pants that have an opinion about how much you’ve just eaten. The pants may be lying! There is way too much lying and scolding going on politically right now without having your pants get in on the act, too.
So bless you. You’ve done an amazing thing. And you are loved; you’re capable of lives of great joy and meaning. It’s what you are made of. And it’s what you’re here for. Take care of yourselves; take care of one another.
And give thanks, like this: Thank you.