Our church group is playing with a sketch about the world's worst commencement address.
I am not the lead writer, but threw some ideas out there. They aren't likely to be used, but I liked some of them too much to waste.
So here are a few gems of advice that I would imagine could come from the world's worst commencement speaker:
-With the tough economy, and dim job prospects, I’ve been hearing a lot that it is always darkest before the dawn. Which is very different from the way it used to be. When I was a kid, it was always Tony Orlando before the dawn.
-You will hear some strange advice. People will tell you to “hitch your wagon to a star.” I wouldn’t do that. First, it takes really long cords. Second, stars are hot. If you have a wagon, I suggest hitching it to a really large dog, like maybe a Saint Bernard.
-People will tell you that now is the best time to go out and live your dreams. I’m not sure about that. My dream is that recurring nightmare where I’m back in school and I didn’t study for a test and can’t remember my locker combination. You would think that the best time to live that dream is when you are still in school. But maybe those people giving that advice know something I don’t.
-Shoot for the moon. It’s so far away, that no one can ever prove you missed. Just point to a crater and say, “See, that’s what I was aiming for.” They can’t argue with success.
-As you enter the world, remember, your only limit is your imagination! And the speed limit. You still have the speed limit. Oh, and the coupon for a dollar off a can of Campbell’s soup at Albertson’s still has a limit of three per customer. But I think those three, imagination, speed and soup are your only limits.
This is why no one has asked me to speak at a graduation ceremony since 1983.
A friend of mine decides to take G-d to couple’s therapy, writes a book about it, and you expect me to not buy it? Think again!
And now that I finished the three-volume-set of graphic novels, JUSTICE (yes, Jim Krueger, I finally got around to reading your collaboration with Alex Ross), I have space to read CONVERSATIONS.
I often balance multiple books at one time, so my companion to Susan’s book is John Medina’s BRAIN RULES.
So on one side, I’m reading the whacky ways that Susan’s brain deals with her relationship to a metaphysical being, and on the other I read ways that Susan could be getting more out of her brain function. (Afternoon nap, Susan, afternoon nap!)
And I now own more books to put on my “written by friends” shelf.
Next step would be to determine if the robot would receive the same level of assistance if it were a broken and dirty robot instead.
And would a pack of robots help Dakota Fanning find her way across the park?
John is talking about the brain and public speaking. If you’ve been wondering about the functional neural architecture proposed by Posner, well, ponder no more!
What caught me was John’s assertion: “I don’t believe in entertainment in teaching.”
John’s right on here (and I’m sure he is glad to be validated by someone who thought Posner was a name you called that white guy trying to rap). Tell a story that is irrelevant, you’ve lost your teaching.
Tell a story that is relevant, and the students will remember the point.
I heard tell of a guy that told relevant stories throughout his teaching. His class killed him, but we all still remember his stories.
Today is Shakespeare’s birthday; old enough, I think, to no longer be carded when picking up a six-pack at Albertsons. As it happens, my book club is honoring his 445 years by watching KING LEAR this Sunday.
Last month we finished CRIME & PUNISHMENT. What is interesting in that little story is that we don’t get to Punishment until the epilogue.
If you want to be literal, that is. The majority of the book speaks to the nature of private punishment, rather than state punishment.
What is the cost of our sins, regardless of whether we get “caught?
For companion pieces, I recommend two Christmas stories: the film FROZEN RIVER and the play THE SEAFARER. The movie explores crime; the play, Dostoevsky style punishment.
In FROZEN RIVER, single mother Ray is driven by circumstances beyond her control, and falls into an unlikely partnership smuggling people across the Canadian border.
Her fall into crime is understandable; but, as we learn, not excusable.
Unlike the murder in CRIME & PUNISHMENT, Ray’s crime is in no way prompted by superiority, nor does it seem as dastardly.
It is only a little sin.
But there are no little sins, are there?
Ray’s minor participation in wrong-doing is a growing menace within her own soul – and showcased with a decision where she tries to avert a major crime, and instead commits a far deeper personal travesty.
The beauty of the movie is in its humanity; it treats its characters with respect, while allowing warts to be warts.
THE SEAFARER is a play about a bunch of Irish guys getting drunk, playing cards and swearing a lot. I guess I could have stopped at “a bunch of Irish guys;” the rest seems kinda obvious.
The play is more than that, but it is hard to discuss without giving away too much. Let’s just say that the first act feels like it is about a whole lot of nothing; then there is a reveal shortly before the intermission curtain.
And that reveal shows that the whole lot of nothing was a whole lot of something.
For this conversation, the important thing is realizing that the lives of our central characters are as pathetic as they seem because they have been living out the unexamined consequences of past transgressions.
There were crimes committed that they were never punished for, and never faced; and this Christmas is the time of reckoning.
The press materials for the play call it a “play about redemption.”
It isn’t. There is no redemption – just a long night of getting to a point where there is finally a chance at redemption.
FROZEN RIVER and THE SEAFARERS carry these commonalities:
They both take place at Christmas.
They both hinge in character development on a decision to face their crimes.
They are both set in an uglier landscape of the human condition.
They both have plots where G-d intervenes in a significant way. (Although neither could be accused of being religious works.)
At the Horace Mann Theater, we changed lights by climbing a rickety set of scaffolding on wheels. When done with our five-foot area, we would sit as someone would undo the wheel locks, move us, and relock us.
Pressing on each lock, the scaffolding would buck; rolling across the floor was a bumpy proposition. Scary for a lot of people; but for her, it was a sense memory.
“It feels like riding elephants,” she confided to me, as we both sat, clutching the bars. “The rhythm of the bucking and bumping. Just like riding an elephant.”
She used to ride elephants, back when she was a literal princess before the revolution and the fall of the Shah. She lived the fairy tale – a retinue to brush her hair and taste her food; commercial flights that would be delayed hours if her whim made her stop for shoes; and riding elephants.
And now she was a student working for a degree, covering her tuition with minimum wage work-study, and hanging lights for another student’s production in a dingy, forty-eight seat theater.
She takes being at the bottom with good will and cheer. There is no place she would rather be than atop a scaffold elephant, serving others, experiencing life at the common level.
It is Friday, and I think of her, and I wonder if He ever had an elephant moment, a moment where He would feel the breeze across the desert, or hear the bleating of a lost sheep, or touch the roughness of a block of wood, and think, “This is just like” some piece of the heavenlies. Some piece of what He had when He was a prince, before He chose to be a servant.
Today is Friday, and next I think of Jack.
Jack who came out to me first, because we were so close, and had such a love for each other that he thought I should know his inner self.
But then he cut himself off. From me, from all of us who called him friend, to forge a new life with those he called alike.
And when he became ill, he cut himself off again, even from those that he called alike; shamed by his disease and by his dying.
I didn’t even hear that he was sick until he was gone. I wondered if he had anyone; I wondered what it must be like to die separated and in shame; I wondered if he knew that it would not have mattered to me, if he would have reached out.
It is Friday, and I think of Jack, and I wonder if He felt even more alone by the choice to separate. Knowing those that called His name chose to separate from Him; knowing His shame was not His own, but ours; knowing that He could reach out and be re-united with His Family; but choosing instead the suffering for the sake of those He now called alike.
Today is Friday, and I think of Rayn.
The cat who, despite my natural resistance, got me to love her. I think how small she was, so perfect. I remember her heartbeat, and her life, and her purr.
And I think of her last moments. I held her through to the end, as the drug was pushed into her system. My hands upon her, feeling the heartbeat, life and purr.
And in an instant, she simply wasn’t there.
It is Friday, and I think of Rayn, and I wonder if He was gone when He gave up his spirit. I wonder if Mary could still feel His heartbeat, life and warmth; or if when she cradled her son, she felt just the emptiness.
Did the body wait, knowing what Mary could not know?
Or was the body just a marker for the aloneness and shame; the suffering and pain; the humility and loss?