Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Back Again

Well, I’m back from a grueling weekend of travel. We basically spent all of Friday and all of Sunday either driving or flying. We were delayed yesterday in Chicago because of the weather, and it wasn’t fun taking a little puddle jumper prop plane to Grand Rapids with storm systems all around. That plane bounced around the sky like a hyperactive child.

The graduation ceremony was typical of graduation ceremonies, except my big brother was involved and that was cool. We yelled so loudly that the president of the university laughed and asked my brother if he had a third of the audience there for him. His response was, “That isn’t even a third of my family”.

I think I’m far too cynical to sit through graduation speeches without the desire to heckle. Despite the hyperbolic pretensions of the commencement speakers, who always seem to be prepping for a career giving motivational seminars to Pizza Hut employees, there is hardly a word spoken in them that applies to even 1/10th of the graduating class. The vast majority of them are not exemplars of passion and integrity, they are more likely just people who trudged along in a degree program so they can get a job in a field they are indifferent to at best and sometimes actively despise. And no, Mr. Motivational Speaker Wannabe, they are not going to “change the world” because of their overwhelming virtuousness, nor are they going to “apply the lessons in leadership and service” that their (mostly dull and almost certainly bored) professors allegedly instilled in them. Most of them are going to get jobs they don’t like, marry spouses they are ultimately ambivalent about, raise children they barely pay attention to, and spend most of their days in the fevered pursuit of conspicuous consumption. They will have a closet full of wrinkle-free slacks, a pantry full of processed foods and diet coke, a house full of bad furniture, and a mind full of treasured myths by which they think they run their life, which will of course really be run by advertising agencies and bureaucrats. If there is even a single one among the 1400 or so that graduated who ever entertains an original thought or contributes something other than taxes to the human community, it will be a shock. On the other hand, I may just still be cranky from jet lag.

Comments

  1. #1 ~DS~
    May 24, 2004

    [i]The vast majority of them are not exemplars of passion and integrity, they are more likely just people who trudged along in a degree program so they can get a job in a field they are indifferent to at best and sometimes actively despise. And no, Mr. Motivational Speaker Wannabe, they are not going to “change the world” because of their overwhelming virtuousness, nor are they going to “apply the lessons in leadership and service” that their (mostly dull and almost certainly bored) professors allegedly instilled in them. Most of them are going to get jobs they don’t like, marry spouses they are ultimately ambivalent about, raise children they barely pay attention to, and spend most of their days in the fevered pursuit of conspicuous consumption. They will have a closet full of wrinkle-free slacks, a pantry full of processed foods and diet coke, a house full of bad furniture, and a mind full of treasured myths by which they think they run their life, which will of course really be run by advertising agencies and bureaucrats.[/i]

    So you came back pretty optimistic huh?

  2. #2 NBarnes
    May 24, 2004

    Given that you grow steadily more cynical as the post progresses, I suspect the jet lag diagnosis may be the most accurate.

  3. #3 Lynnie
    May 24, 2004

    Trying again to post this … “WELCOME HOME HONEY”

  4. #4 Ed Brayton
    May 24, 2004

    Given that you grow steadily more cynical as the post progresses, I suspect the jet lag diagnosis may be the most accurate.

    However, I was thinking it all while it was going on, before my nightmarish return trip home yesterday. And at any rate, what I wrote remains true. The speaker droned on and on about how the professors there had such passion and wisdom and how they had instilled such an ethic of bold leadership in their students that they could not help but go forth and transform the world, armed with the Sword of Knowledge and the Armor of Truth. Well I’ve known a lot of college professors in my life, and count not a few of them as friends. I can name the number that teach with anything approaching passion on one hand, two at the most.

    It may be cynical, but how about a little reality mixed in there? How about pointing out that of the 1400 graduating students, a sizable percentage of them will struggle to find a job in their field, and that many of those who do will quickly become bored with it and wish they hadn’t? How about pointing out that a certain percentage of them will likely die before they hit 45 or 50, victims of random events, bad genetics, drunk drivers or violent crime? How about pointing out that the vast majority of them will be so busy accumulating things that they’ll lack the time (if they have the ability) to actually think? At the very least, why not at least come to grips with the fact that the majority of any group that size are of mediocre talent at best, not little balls of brilliance on the verge of changing the world?

    I know, not very inspiring. But at least it would be true. I mean, have we really reached the point where we have to tell lies to ourselves and to each other to make ourselves feel better, where we prefer the Lake Wobegon reality (where all the children are above average) to the truth? What am I saying, of course we have. We reached it long ago. Mencken was pointing this out nearly a century ago, and he was hardly the first to do so himself. Ambrose Bierce defined a cynic as “a blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they really are, not as they ought to be.” He was right, but it’s only half of the picture. The other half is that cynics do see how things ought to be, which is why they know that what is doesn’t measure up to it.

  5. #5 ~DS~
    May 24, 2004

    Well you have to look on the bright side of life

    If it wasn’t for the hopeless, unthinking, drudgery, ending in painful death that most people call living, we wouldn’t be so incredibly cool.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.