This time of year lends itself to advice giving. All across the nation, colleges and universities are conferring degrees on thousands of young men and women, and as is tradition, successful, sagacious solons share their solemn perspectives, their expansive experiences, and their eternal wisdom with students probably blissfully unaware that the words spilling from the lips of the speakers may direct and improve their lives. I think that George Barnard Shaw observed that youth is wasted on the young, and that comment is most clear during these moments when good advice is being shared.
The Huffington Post compiled eight superb speeches and shared them recently, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/14/author-commencement-speech_n_5280937.html, and I am confident that one or two of these speeches will inspire future musings by me. Most speeches celebrate the limitless future of the students, but David Brooks, who has begun speaking at a number of commencements, shares a slightly different perspective in this opinion-editorial from 2011: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/31/opinion/31brooks.html?_r=0. It is well worth the read.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to offer mine own advice, and, as faithful readers of this blog, you must know that my theme is often a carpe diem, seize the day, theme. I firmly believe that the beauty of life lies in embracing the truth that not only is our time limited, but also, arbitrary: the undiscovered country, from whose bourn no traveler returns, can be our destination at any time. Take full advantage of the moment. Carpe Diem, seize the day; squeeze every last moment out of every single day, suck the marrow from the bone, so that when you put your head on the pillow at night, you can say with certainty, “I have no regrets.” Here’s a parable that I read that supports this idea:
“Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening the bank deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every cent, of course! Each of us has such a bank. Its name is Time. Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against the “tomorrow.” You must live in the present on today’s deposits. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness, and success! The clock is running. Make the most of today. To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade. To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby. To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper. To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet. To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the train. To realize the value of ONE-SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an accident. Treasure every moment that you have! And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time.”
And as you look to drink life to the lees, to the last drop, seek to work hard. As I was preparing this text, I came across this quotation: “Striving for success without hard work is like trying to harvest where you haven’t planted” (David Bly). You are sitting here celebrating this moment because you have worked hard; you have taken advantage of each moment. Continue to do so, because as you will hear often, “Everything counts now.” It has always counted, because life is enjoying every single moment, but it will seem to count even more as each decision that you will make will determine your future path. I like to think of this as doors opening or closing. Each time you fail to do an assignment, quietly another door of opportunity will close. Each time that you choose to do wrong over right, quietly another door of opportunity will shut. Enough of these failures and choices over time, and you will hear quite loudly the shutting of the doors, most clearly represented by failing to go to the college of your choice, or losing that promotion you so earnestly want. Conversely, each time that you opt to do your work, silently another window will open. Each time that you choose to do right over wrong, help a friend, donate your time or your treasure, comfort a peer who is anxious, nurse a relative who is sick, cheer a sibling who is sad, another window will open, and you will see quite brilliantly the opening of the windows. People who choose to make the most of their time, people who embrace this moment as the most important moment, find that windows open for them and opportunities abound.
Seeing my typical traffic, I doubt that many will be affected by these words, but as any educator will tell you, sowing seeds is an infinitely patient, but wildly satisfying business. If one person is better because of this post, then I will have done my job, will have made the most of this moment.