Go out to the world

The Crown Prince gave a good speech yesterday for the ITB graduation. For graduates, a graduation speech is something which you will quite remember, that is the last speech you will hear as a student. I was trawling on the internet for good graduation speeches, in America, graduation is called commencement, hence commencement speeches. Here is one which I found to be very good. Unfortunately the speech is very long and I will only include the last part which I thought will be good for students going to enter into the new working world. It was given by Richard Russo at a small Maine Colby College in 2006.

"If you're lucky, you may have more than one chance to get things right, but second and third chances, like second and third marriages, can be dicey propositions, and they don't come with guarantees. This much seems undeniable. When the truth is found to be lies, you're still screwed, even if you’re tenured in religious studies.

The question then is this: How does a person keep from living the wrong life? Well, here are Russo's Rules For A Good Life. Notice that I don't say "for a happy life." One of the reasons the novelist Graham Greene despised Americans was that phrase "the pursuit of happiness," which we hold so dear and which ensured, to his way of thinking, we'd always be an infantile nation. Better to live a good life, he believed, than a happy one. Happily, the two may not always be mutually exclusive. Keep in mind that Russo's Rules for a Good Life are specifically designed to be jettisoned without regret when they don't work. They've worked for me. Your mileage may vary.

Rule # 1: Search out the kind of work that you would gladly do for free and then get somebody to pay you for it. Don't expect this to happen overnight. It took me nearly twenty years to get people to pay me a living wage for my writing, which makes me, even at this juncture, one of the fortunate few. Your work should be something that satisfies, excites and rewards you, something that gives your life meaning and direction, that stays fresh and new and challenging, a task you'll never quite master, that will never be completed. It should be the kind of work that constantly humbles you, that never allows you to become smug—in short, work that sustains you instead of just paying your bills. While you search for this work, you'll need a job. For me that job was teaching, and it's a fine thing to be good at your job, as long as you don't confuse it with your work, which it's hard not to do.

Rule # 2: Find a loving mate to share what life has in store, because the world can be a lonely place, and people who aren't lonely don't want to hear about it if you are. At some point you're going to tire of yourself, of the sound of your own voice (if you haven't already), and you're going to need someone whose voice you never tire of, someone who'll know you better, in some ways, than you know yourself and who'll remind you who you are when you forget and why things matter. After thirty years, my wife Barbara and I continue to delight in each other's company, and that's astonishing given the number of other people we've grown weary of. I have to tell you that the odds of finding the right person to spend an entire life with are not great, and if you get it wrong, badly wrong, your good life will morph in abject misery. In which case, go back to Rule # 1 and concentrate on your work. Maybe she'll go away. Or he.

Rule # 3: have children. After what you've put your parents through, you deserve children of your own. Next time you're back home, get out the old photo albums and take a good look at some pictures of your parents when they were your age. Talk about the witness protection program. But don't let these snapshots of your parents when they were happy and carefree dissuade you. Have kids. Don't worry that you can't afford them, though it's true, you can't. Don't worry too much about the world they'll be born into, which will suck, because that's what the world mostly does. You won't be a fully vested citizen until you have someone you love more than life to hand this imperfect world over to. And don't worry that you may have poor parenting skills, which you will. Just remember this: everything you say and do from the time your children are born until the day they move out of the house should be motivated by the terrible possibility that your son or daughter could turn out to be a writer, a writer with only one reliable subject: You. When my father, whom I loved dearly, died over a decade ago, I'm sure he rested easy in the belief that most of the evidence had died with him. There was no way he could have predicted that there would one day be over a half a million copies of The Risk Pool and Nobody's Fool floating around, not to mention a major motion picture. Had this possibility occurred to him, I can't help thinking he'd have done one or two things differently. So, as Carrnela Soprano says, "Watch your step." But by all means have children. No one was more aware of the danger inherent in reproduction than I, and I have two beloved daughters, one of whom graduates here today. They are the pride and joy of my life, and neither of them would ever, ever write about their father, would you, Kate?

Rule # 4. If you have one, nurture your sense of humor. You're going to need it, because, as Bob Dylan has observed, "people are crazy, the times are strange." Just as importantly, remember that in an age as numbingly earnest as this one, where we're more often urged to be sensitive than just, where genuinely independent thought is equally unwelcome to fundamentalists on both the left and right, it's laughter that keeps us sane. Indeed, the inability to laugh, at the world and at ourselves, is a sign, at least to my way of thinking, of mental illness. Mark Twain, overcome by loss and bitterness and despair near the end of his life, stopped laughing, but he never stopped believing in the power of laughter. The angel Satan in "The Mysterious Stranger" fragments, which were among the last things he ever wrote, reminds humans that, "Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand. You [humans] are always fussing and fighting with your other weapons. Do you ever use that one? No, you leave it rusting... you lack sense and courage." Or, as critic Kathleen Powers puts it, "We Americans worry about humor, confusing it with a lack of seriousness. [But] Look here. Along with art and immorality, it is humor that distinguishes human beings from animals. It is, furthermore, a truly civilizing force, nemesis to the big battalions, and a vexation and puzzlement to the purveyors of mediocrity." And speaking of the big battalions and lethal mediocrity, keep in mind that we are unlikely to vote anyone out of public office who hasn't first been the subject of private hilarity.

Okay, that's pretty much it. It’s all I know, and then some. Four simple, deeply flawed rules to live by. Go to it. Be bold. Be true. Be kind. Rotate your tires. Don't drink so much. There aren't going to be enough liver transplants to go around."


KH said…
Dear BR,
Steve Jobs gave a brilliant one to Stanford in 2005.

Full text - http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html

And on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA

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