This [title link] is probably the most real speech [/thing] I’ve ever read.
A piece of it:
And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let’s get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “day in day out” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I’m talking about.
But, there’s something else that needs saying that he didn’t get to, or maybe he hinted at it in mentioning our various “temples of worship”:
When you’re doing the daily thing, whatever it is you do, and tu fais your grocery shopping and dinner and unwinding, and you have to choose what to think about — whether or not you’ll succumb to those “petty frustrations” of crowds, muzak, monotony, tiredness, etc. etc. or whether you’ll reason, consider alternatives, think outside yourself…
If you can manage not to succumb, can you use that time (in lines, crowds, commuting, etc.) to do something more? Even if that something is yet another “god” to worship; if you choose one anyway, consciously or not, mightn’t it at least be something bigger than the self, something more far-reaching than the immediate/parochial wants/anxieties/honors/goals/etc?
I’m talking about, amidst all that mental and environmental baggage and commotion and grind and culture, reaching beyond it, throwing anchors out — far, far out. Can you keep at it, can you read on the train and learn things, can you do mental work and consider pertinent problems (whatever they are for you: are you a physicist, artist, sociologist, accountant, mother?), can you, despite being tired and hungry and dying to watch TV, decide instead to make a dent in that thing you thought (long or not so long ago) that you really really wanted to do? Despite, also, the fact that this thing might take very long and you may have no results at all, not for a long time.
They’re questions because it’s always a choice: to believe in the thing you set out for, even if you don’t quite know what it is or how to do it, or to hell with it and watch the telly or scroll down some really long website or other for a few hours before sleeping again, and doing the same things, again.
That’s the third part of learning how to think, or what to think about. Easier said than done.