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Congratulations to the Class of 2011

So I just returned from the woods this Memorial Day weekend, and wanted to make certain to congratulate the Class of 2011. But because Cornell can seemingly never find a good convocation speaker (although by some accounts, Giuliani was much better than my own class's experience with Wesley Clark), and because I love graduation addresses dearly, I will leave you with some parting wisdom from graduation speakers at a college that does know how to pick a speaker: Kenyon College in Ohio.

First, here's David Foster Wallace in 2005:

But if you've really learned how to think, how to pay attention, then you will know you have other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer-hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars -- compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things. Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true: The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship...

And, secondly, here's his good friend Jonathan Franzen in 2011:

There is no such thing as a person whose real self you like every particle of. This is why a world of liking is ultimately a lie. But there is such a thing as a person whose real self you love every particle of. And this is why love is such an existential threat to the techno-consumerist order: it exposes the lie.

This is not to say that love is only about fighting. Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. And this is why love, as I understand it, is always specific. Trying to love all of humanity may be a worthy endeavor, but, in a funny way, it keeps the focus on the self, on the self’s own moral or spiritual well-being. Whereas, to love a specific person, and to identify with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of your self.

Make Ezra proud.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on May 30, 2011 (#)

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