This entry is about my thoughts and feelings about a commencement speech for the graduating class of 2013 in Butler University given by the New York best-selling author John Green. It was about the journey that most would take after graduation, from a tremendous high to a bewildering low, and how it is the path of a true hero.
I got this entry posted rather late due to unforeseen circumstances, but it did give me some time to think about the words uttered by Mr. Green, whose book I’m currently reading with some considerable interest. This is quite late as I had planned to post this two months prior, but work overtook me.
A transcript of this speech can be read in this entry on John Green’s Tumblr.
Perhaps it’s safe enough to say that it’s not that similar from the usual “Go out and be great” commencement speech that assumes everyone is off to build careers, get rich, and stuff like that. Not that such motivational speeches are that bad, but realism is not a dirty word, especially if it’s about the ethics of being a human being. I think that’s what this speech had presented.
The Mellowing Out Process
What John Green had expounded on was something a lot of us may learn in the somewhat painful yet fruitful maturation process, which is that there is dignity in being ordinary. As long as we get to pass on the lessons and inspiration that had driven us forward in our youth to the succeeding generations, then we’ve done way more than the celebrities we were taught to admire. If we can give more than what we had taken, then we live meaningfully.
In youth, we stare bright-eyed at the horizon with our hopes and dreams mostly intact. As we move forward, most of it gets shed like dead weight as real life overtakes us. While the core essence of those dreams need not be set aside to live upon this green and grey earth, there may be merit to put the excess baggage to the side. There’s nothing wrong about dreaming, but adult life requires focus.
The transience of our existence in this universe is not simply a countdown to inevitability, but a reason to not worry so much and enjoy living with others who share our condition. Perhaps this starts sounding a bit preachy, but it’s something meant to become clearer as we get older and more mature. There are those who pile on the wrinkles, but not the wisdom as they continue to make the same mistakes over and over again, then there are those who do learn from experience.
A story is only as good as its ending.
On Being Nice
The concept of nice guys finishing last has been such a frustrating cliché that it kind of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy for those who even remotely believe in it, like a nocebo. As it got thrown around more, people started to believe it as if it’s a gospel truth.
John Green’s words from the speech then ring true here.
“Be vigilant in the struggle toward empathy.”
That may be the answer to this conundrum, or at least a partial one. You may not get all the bling and the bitches in your 20’s and early 30’s, but you can surely sleep at night.
Comparisons and Conclusions
I cannot help but make comparisons to another popular commencement speech given by the Filipino writer and musician Lourd de Veyra in the University of the Philippines. (Most of it is in Filipino.)
Lourd’s speech brings hope and consolation to the underachiever, while Green’s speech brings everyone to an even plane. As someone who has recently started doubting his station in life, I’m reminded once again to not compare myself with others too much and use my own happiness as my benchmark. I’m quite happy with my life right now, so there’s no reason to doubt my chosen path. In fact, I can say that I’ve actually done better than expected, given the circumstances.
If we do want to make something out of ourselves, then there are plenty of opportunities to be had for we are lucky enough to have had the privilege of education and that we live in an age of great promise — a time when the Internet exists.
I don’t wish to nuthug John Green, but my admiration for his handle on the English language and his ability to deliver wit and candor seemingly with ease is too big to deny. I spend quite a bit of time on the Internet listening to raconteurs from different fields and all walks of life, as well as stand-up comedians who are known for delivering punchlines out of anecdotes with great skill and thoughtfulness. I aspire to do the same in some degree of proficiency, as it’s part of the reason why I continue to write at some capacity.
So, what do you think is best in life?
To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women?
Or maybe you just want be a millionaire and live the high life?
Or are you like me, who just wants to earn a comfortable living, enjoy video games, and fool around on the Internet?
Post your thoughts in the comment section below.