Friday, May 27, 2011

To The Class of 2011

For the next few weeks, important people across the nation will stand in front of graduates and their families delivering thoughtful and articulate speeches to the class of 2011. I may never make one of these speeches, but after teaching the class of 2011 for the last nine months I decided to draft the speech that I would give them.

To the class of 2011:

Too many people will tell you today that you are our future. You’re not.

Thank you very much, but I have my own plans for the future and depending on yours they may intersect, but no, I’m not looking out with excitement about your potential to take care of my world tomorrow. I want you to change your world today.

You are not the future. That would mean that everything you do today has no other value than what it prepares you for at some future time. After today, some of you who’ve been in my Friend queue on Facebook will make the cut and I will confirm our friendship. But I’ll let you in on an important secret. Most of you have been my peers for months. I learn from you, I grow because of you, I become a better person because you were a part of my life. Now that you turn the tassle from left to right it merely becomes a matter of formality.

Maybe if you’d known this earlier you would have acted more like it. The classes you skipped, the tests you didn’t prepare for, or the homework you either half-way did or borrowed from a friend aren’t really the behaviors I expect from my peers. That’s ok though, just because I’ve called you a friend doesn’t mean that you don't still have some growing up to do. I have a little of that left myself.

But remember, you’re not my future, you’re your own present. So act like it.

All this future talk can lead you down the wrong road. For a long time, us adults were pretty immune from the whim of fad and fashion. It seems that technology has changed this as well. We’re motivated by the next best thing and constantly try to stay ahead of the curve. You’re graduating, it’s time to ignore the curve. Don’t spend your life chasing the tail of the world hoping to hop on it’s back for a ride. Learn who you are, embrace your identity. Whether it’s rooted in family, faith, or passion, embrace your identity and let the world chase your tail, and hop on for a ride.

Everyone will tell you that you’ve grown up in the information age, but the information age is coming to an end. Instead of chasing what’s next, discover what is enduring. The values that never go out of style—creativity, excellence, and generosity. Simply put, create stuff; do it well; and share it. Maybe you’ll make a few bucks off of it, but if you haven’t noticed, we’ve created a pretty rotten economy for you to inherit. Financial success is no guarantee, so you might as well work toward fulfillment. You’re more likely to find it than wealth, and really, if you find it, you’ve found wealth.

To everyone who graduates today, stand up if you were accepted into the college of your dreams; if you’re proud today of the accomplishments you’ve achieved in your sport or performing art; if you think of all your classmates and someone comes to mind that you’ve helped become a better person; if you’ve fallen in love or found a best friend; stand up if you’re just glad to be graduating and finally have high school behind you. ( I assume that includes everyone)

If you felt sick when the rejection letter came, have a seat; if you remember a moment when you forgot a line, hit a wrong note, or just blew a big game; if you’ve hurt someone in your class in a way you wish you could take back; if you’ve been heartbroken, or broken someone’s heart, or ruined a friendship by doing something stupid; if you’ve hated most every moment you’ve endured to make it to graduation today. (Again, I assume this covers everyone)

Congratulations to everyone who was able to stand tall! And also for taking a seat. You’ve experienced life. A rich series of events both bitter and sweet, sometimes all at once. Don’t fail to enjoy and savor the good, but don’t run from and hide from the bad. These are the moments that have made you the person you are and will continue to make you until death. Grab hold of them and own them. Be comfortable with yourself; and when someone asks about your future show them how you’re living it instead of telling them what you hope it will be.

Abraham Maslow said “I guarantee that if you strive to become anything less that what you are capable of you will never find happiness.” I believe that every one of you have something to offer this world. And we need it now. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Do something, do it well, and share it with the rest of us—today and for the rest of your life.

Monday, May 23, 2011

When I Try to Sing This Song

The title is the first line of the song "Gloria" by U2.  Bono follows it with I try to stand up, but I can't find my feet.  I've felt that way lately with A Pot of Stew.  Sometimes the urge to write comes, but ultimately writing is nothing more than an expression of ideas.  Ideas are important and deserve thoughtful articulation.  Too often we clutter the landscape of ideas with mindless chatter and incessant words.  I have more than enough ideas floating around in my brain to fill the interwebs with post after post after post, but I don't want to cheat my ideas and add further litter to the information superhighway.

The fleeting nature of the 21st century disturbs me.  We rush so much to be the first or to create something fresh that we no longer take time to ponder and reflect.  In my Psychology class I teach that normal human anxiety is essential to anticpating and preparing for what it to come, while normal human depression is a natural response to significance, slowing our lives to understand the significance of what has transpired.  Perhaps we are in a state of technology induced anxiety.  I've opted out of the race for a time.

Maybe it would have been polite to explain my absence from APOS before hand, but the idea really hadn't taken shape until I partially realized what I was doing.  I grew tired of "disposable" writing, fresh for the day and discarded on the trash heap of digital content.  The break has been good.

In the next few weeks, I'd like to write about several books I've read during this break.  I've also been working on a post for graduation.  I want to share several conversations I've had with a friend regarding faith.  I've heard from nine or ten people in the last month who read APOS, and honestly, it is humbling to know that even one person is interested in what I have to say.  So thank you, and I hope to post again soon.

In the meantime, enjoy an awesome song from and awesome band.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A Celebration of Death

The world is abuzz on May 2 with the news of Osama bin Laden's death.  Many of us waited eagerly to hear the unknown from the lips of our President on Sunday night while many awoke on Monday morning to the revelation that the embodiment of terrorism and hatred of America was no more.  In a fallen and imperfect world, sometimes there are no good decisions to make.  The death of bin Laden might have been needed to bring justice to those who suffered loss on September 11, 2001.  For others it may not be justice as much as much as justification that for the last decade our military efforts abroad have not been fruitless.  Perhaps the death of bin Laden restores our belief that when America sets for itself a goal, that goal we will reach.

We could argue that killing Osama bin Laden is an ironic way of showing the world that violence will not be tolerated.  We could say that after ten years, the murder of bin Laden is vengeance more than justice.  We could assert that in ten years of war, the United States is responsible for more innocent lives than bin Laden himself.

I can understand both sentiments.

I don't think the response to bin Laden's death in either case is joy.  Relief, for sure.  Satisfaction, I can understand.  I cannot believe that the proper response to any death is one of Joy.  Even if given that Osama bin Laden deserved this death, that his demise was demanded in the name of justice-- we have just lived through a failure of humanity to be accepted with gravity, not embraced in jubilance.

The only beauty in the story of death lies in the new life it has the potential to bring.  Only in the promise of restoration, reconciliation, resurrection can we ever find hope in death.  May we one day rejoice in celebration of reconciliation.