Monday, June 4, 2012

Allegorical Bootstraps

Pomp and Circumstance plays in the background

     Congratulations graduates of the class of 2012.  For better or worse, you have succeeded in getting your diploma.  Hopefully all you put into earning it has given you a glimpse of the fact that important things in life are not free and require time and effort.  Even this commencement address is part of the price you pay for graduation.  While you sit there in your cap and gown, thinking about after parties, graduation gifts, and goodness knows what else, I am going to consume some of that time.
     Hear me out.  You can’t pull yourself up by the bootstraps if you always go around barefoot.  While some of you nod as if you understand, others blink in confusion. 
     What did he mean by that? You wonder.  I’ll tell you something else.  You may already be aware that in your lives today you are bombarded with witticisms from everywhere.  In my day they were mostly on bumper stickers and T-shirts.  Now, thanks to modern technology we see them in every social media.  Quotes from everyone, ancient philosophers to modern celebrities are pasted everywhere.  Put into whatever context is fitting we smile and agree, or like, or re-tweet. 
     Graduates, I hope that none of you think that on this day you are done learning.  You’ve just spent years having your minds filled with names and dates, facts and figures and all sorts of information and knowledge that you may or may not ever use in your life.  And on the last day of classes you may have relaxed a bit, thinking that’s all over now.  But even those of you not moving on to higher learning institutions are not done learning.  In fact the real learning begins now. 
     You are entering into a time of your life when you begin to learn about yourself.  You may be learning new job skills soon or learning what it takes to survive your first month in college.  The truth is that you are headed out into the real world soon.  I hope you can allow yourself to make mistakes, learn what works for you. 
     Soundbites and witticisms are no way to navigate yourself.  Having a single life motto isn’t enough.  There are too many things you might encounter.  As for me, I needed to keep learning how to face new situations with more than have a clever retort. 
     What do bootstraps have to do with it all?  Not a lot.  But I thought it sounded pretty wise.  It only took a moment of contemplation to realize it didn’t really make sense.  Graduates, do you think that you can look at the quotes and tweets and whatever new things are out there that this old man isn’t even aware of, and think about them for a moment or two before concluding that they are all that wise?
     Remember we all are still learning.  Even this old man is.  We have a need to know what is best for ourselves and loved ones.  And sometimes I need to take off my boots and feel around with my toes what the temperature of the water is, or how soft the grass is, or if the kitten is under the bed waiting to attack.
     And what if I am down and need to pull myself up and I’m barefoot at the time and have no bootstraps?  Well I think I have my own way.  But you graduates, all of you are different from me and each other.  That is the point I'm trying to make. It is up to you to learn what works for you. There is joy in discovery.  Now flip your liripoop, pull those boots off and take a few steps.

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