In response to PB's graduation speech.
As much as I probably needed to hear some of that at 17, hearing that what little self-esteem I had was based on self-delusion would have been awfully rough.
I knew a quarter of that at the time, learned half of it in my college and directly post college years, and still haven't mastered keeping my living space clean, thank you notes and not making fun of the appearance of people MORE attractive than me such as Supermodels. (I am not a professional beautiful person, I'm not even qualified to be one. But if I were, I wouldn't dress like the organ grinder's monkey.) Still, I don't know why having inevitable wakeup to human nature four years later was really a problem.
I guess I am at a weird time to be responding to that as I've figured out most of the "Don'ts" in your peice. I don't have a delusion that I'm going to be a brillaint writer, I don't protest things in stupid ways and I know that when I'm depressed, I'm not always fun to be around, but my friends put up with me because I put up with them similar times.
Like most people who give advice, though, you do focus on the negative.
I've done most of your positive suggestions. The ChaliceMom runs a minority housing project and I think I've already figured out the four big things you learn working with the poor:
1. There but for the grace of God go I.
2. Some of these people are REALLY cool.
3. But ultimately unsalvageable, at least by you, especially when due to mental illness.
4. But you have to keep trying. It matters to the starfish.
I've cultivated my mind and I'm still at it, I make a mean chicken marsala, and I've never had an STD.
Now I'm supposed to "find my own path" and redefine success and live beautifully and all that.
That's kind of a tall order. I think the reason our society has college and family connections and lots of the things you deplore is that we need such channells to help people figure out where they are going. I've had them and even I'm a little bit clueless. I'm aware that life should have something to be working toward, and I don't feel like congressional fundraising is working me toward that, but without said goal, I'm doing pretty well to be making money and eating lots of free smoked salmon. But I need that goal, and I don't feel like I'm even getting closer to it.
And I realize I'm getting into "Brave New World" territory here, but I think the question is worth asking, while human civilization has always had artists and intellectuals and strivers after better things, I don't know that a graduation speech making more of them would even necessarily be a good thing even if it worked.
Is a garbageman who reads Milton and feels he's destined for better things, yet can't attain them because everybody else reads Milton too, in a better position than one who just enjoys his NASCAR? (One could argue, if he writes briliant short stories about lower-class misery the way Raymond Carver did, "yes." But to CC, a little Raymond Carver goes a long way.)
Do we want EVERYONE to be intellectual, poetic and committed to redefining success?
As I think the only party planner on the planet with a shorter OED in her office, I haven't the slightest.
whose graduation speech by James Carville was at least really fuinny.