March 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
After this I’ll stop, promise. But look at him! There’s humility, and the struggle to make himself clear, and the inability to play “the game”, and an honesty and moral clarity like no one else. Frustration, yes, and medication side-effect tics. What I don’t see (ahem, attention-seeking jerk high school friend of not ours) is condescension or barely-concealed superiority. Just, umm, no.
Watch all four parts. I laughed aloud several times, and “awww”ed like I would at a cute exasperated child, and wanted to be a friend just offscreen reminding him that it’s all okay, and remembered why I love love love his writing. Best line – “You’re seriously asking me for my view on The English Patient?”
I spent some time in Booksmith (after all the cute boys went downstairs for a book signing I wasn’t interested in) rereading the Commencement speech he gave at Kenyon, which of course has been bound and published in a cute little tiny book. All I can say is–is it too cheesy to call someone “lovely?” I feel a bit like someone’s 90 year old grandma. There’s nothing (ahem, attention-seeking jerk high school friend of not ours) more impressive than this crazy combination of near super-intelligence and humility. Anywho, this: (from “This is Water”)
“And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving…. The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.
That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.
I know that this stuff probably doesn’t sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. But please don’t just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.
The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.
It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:
“This is water.”
“This is water.”
It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime. And it commences: now.
I wish you way more than luck.”