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Advice to Graduates

May 14, 2024  |  304 words  |  Philosophy

It is graduation season, and there are some good ideas for this spring’s batch of commencement speakers in today’s paper.  From Bret Stephens of The New York Times comes the following:

“I’d urge them to do everything they can to cultivate an inner life, especially since social media is always trying to suck it out of them.  Commit great poems to heart, starting with those by Gerald Manley Hopkins and Edna St. Vincent Millay.  Recite them aloud on solitary walks.  Compose dirty limericks in your head.  Read more for pleasure, less for purpose.  Read, immediately, Marguerite Yourcenar’s ‘Memoirs of Hadrian.’

“Imitate writers or artists you most admire; you’ll find your own voice and style in all the ways your imitation falls short.  Don’t post self-indulgent glam shots of yourself on Instagram, and please stop photographing your damn meals.”

“Think of Tik-Tok as your generation’s cocaine and get off it.  Work hard at keeping a few good friendships, not gaining thousands of followers.  Eschew envy, cynicism, and virtue signaling.  Ponder the meaning of the word “hineni.”  Make only enough money so that you don’t have to think about it much.  Preserve an independence of mind and spirit, and nurture a contrarian opinion or two, especially if it goes against your own political side.”

“Reserve the right to change your mind – and really do it from time to time.  Never join a cause if you aren’t familiar with the argument against it.  Heed the words of Rabbi Hillel: ‘where there are no men, be thou a man.’  Or woman.  Don’t equate success with fame or fame with happiness.  Find your core satisfaction in a soul mate, not a career.  Laugh more, mostly at yourself.”

My, oh my, yes indeed.  Thank you, Mr. Stephens, for sharing with us this wonderful recipe for living a good life. 

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr.

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