Perusing through the Sunday paper, last week, I was inspired by an article that talked about graduation speeches. I’ve never been called upon to deliver one, doubt I ever will, but I thought, hmmm…what would I like to hear in one, were I, once again, graduating from Saranac Lake Central High School or Northern Arizona University…and my life was still ahead of me?
To The Graduating Classes of 2014:
Take control of your life.
When you leave here, setting out for your course through life, you will have all sorts of choices. Some of you will enter the military or government services. So will become celebrities of one kind or another. Some will become academicians. Journalists. Managers. Writers. Film makers. Some will lead simple, quiet lives.
But you will all, eventually, die.
We all will.
How will you look back on your lives at the end?
Will you be satisfied? Even have time to do so? Will you have helped make life a better place to live?
Here is what I ask: be yourself, and don’t cave into the fear mongering that’s out there. Create the world you would like to see, to live in, and spread the joy.
There’s a lot of “evil” out there, and evil is as evil does…but there is also far more good. If there wasn’t, we wouldn’t be here. We would not be enjoying what freedoms we do have, however meager you may, now, feel we are or are not enjoying. Now, there are a lot of arguments out there about protecting those liberties, and the “mechanics” behind said protection, but I’m here to tell you of a very simple way we can all practice without putting ourselves into harm’s way or debating global politics.
Focus on the good in your own minds.
Now, this might sound all Pollyanna nonsense, but think about this: nothing becomes exterior in your lives that has not first existed within your minds.
There is a quote by Joe Queenan, columnist in the Wall Street Journal (not sure if he still is), who said, “People are…sensitive about what they put into their bodies…but will put anything into their brains. They eat free-range chicken, but they watch TV shows about headless suburban demons. They ingest loads of parsnips but never Picasso. Call me a hidebound traditionalist, but the brain as every bit as important as the small intestine.”
I substitute “mind” for “brains,” but the sentiment is adequate.
You put out what you think about, what you concentrate upon. If you think the world a bad place to live, you think everyone’s out to get you, absolutely every one of your actions will telegraph that. Spew that. Absolutely everything you do will be to that end. Consciously or unconsciously, this will be your experience.
If you believe we all get sick the older we get, this will happen.
If you believe all politicians are all corrupt, this will happen.
If you believe in living in fear, this will be your experience.
There is much truth to this on a Zen level, but on an everyday level it also bears itself out. You will not look for optimistic, beneficial solutions. You will only look and see and select the negative side of things. You will only see fear and only do things that will attract and corroborate fear mongering. Because you cannot see past it.
If, however, you look outside the box, as the phrase goes, if you open yourselves up to the optimistic, you have now given yourself at least twice as many options. While living in fear, you only see half the coin. Flip that damned thing over. Put as much effort and energy into the rest of the equation, into positive approaches to living and creating life.
On the Zen side, we’ve all heard the other time-worn phrase that like attracts like. Where do these trite phrases come from? Might there not be some truth to them?
Haven’t you ever notice that when you were in a bad mood, a sick mood, everything appeared dour and wicked…while in a great mood and enjoying yourself, everything seemed happy and optimistic? It’s not just brain chemicals, no matter what your science courses may have tried to impress upon you. Sometimes the effects are real, not just chemically induced hallucinations.
Simply stated, there is a lot to be said for sunny dispositions. Positive outlooks. Even medical and psychological sciences are beginning to see this. Sub-atomic physics.
Find new and creative ways in expressing this philosophy that fits into your life.
Take control of your life.
Change the entrenched paradigms of fear and negativity that seem to be permeating the media. Turn off your damned cell phones and look up, as that one video rapped. Look around, look down. Look into the faces, the eyes, of the people and places you meet. If you’re going into the film or video business, quit making films that degrade or cheapen the human experience. There’s a lot of talk about whether or not video games or movies make killers out of people…but if all you do is immerse yourself into violence and depravity…whether in a movie or video games…all day, and that is the sum total of your daily experience, tell me, what the hell else do you expect of that person when they go out into the real world? In fact, what is real, what becomes real, to someone like that? What the kind of output do you actually expect from that kind of mind? You honestly expect that person to become a preacher, a teacher, a kind and caring parent?
If all you watch are news reports about death and destruction, do you really expect to have a positive outlook in life?
Take control of your life.
If we can all take control of our lives in more positive ways…the benefits will be enormous. Earth- and life-shaking. It can, literally, change the direction of all our lives. Because, and this is another Zen thing, there are things called probabilities out there. Roads not taken, waiting to be taken. And they all intersect, so one road not taken at one point, can certainly be taken later on down that other road taken. Not everything talked about has to be manifested into physical reality. Wars, droughts, climate change. Sometimes they can be manifested in the nonphysical, the mental landscapes of Humanity…and sometimes both. There seems to be a lot of angst and fear out there…and through all this—all I’ve had to say, here—I ask that all of you out there steer clear of that fear and angst. “Go around the rocks,” as I’d once read. Expect a different probability than what we are all currently experiencing. A more positive one, free from wars (or lessened conflicts, at the very least). Where we can all live among each other, tolerating each other, trying to make a go at this thing called life, but not at any others’ expense. Wish for the best, and the best will come. Maybe not completely (not everyone is a saint…but not everyone is a sinner, either…), maybe not exactly as you might expect it to be, but it will come. If we all focus and act in the best possible ways, then what else can one reasonably expect—even if you don’t buy into all I’ve said 100%? What could it hurt? Even 10% is doable. Would make a difference.
Take control of your lives.
Congratulations to all of you, I wish you all the best. And congratulations, Alek!