To the graduating Class of 2017, I offer this advice. Take what you need:
“Youth is wasted on the young”1is a phrase you will one day understand, but only too late. Know that youth is given in fair trade2 for the wisdom you earn over time.
People join causes if they have no because, so be cause3. Armchair complaints do not leave your living room, so fight for justice, question, protest, criticize, write and read letters, poetry, songs, speeches, sermons or legislation. The arc of history tends toward justice, but you must be the one who bends it.
Vote wisely in the ballot box, at the cash register and with your feet. Money is ink on cotton and paper which people trade you for time4. It does not buy happiness; you must find that on your own.
Don’t take yourself so seriously. You are your own worst critic and only you have to live with your decisions. Life is far more flexible than you imagine.
Do not fear evil, instead fear the indifference of good men5. Never be indifferent. Protect the weak, the innocent and those who cannot protect themselves. With great power comes great responsibility and often that “power” is simply being the right place and right time to do good. Anonymity is for cowards, so always sign your name. Proudly. In ink.
If you get cut, watch yourself bleed. Understand time is doing the same thing to you. We are water and dust breathed into life with an expiration date. Death is inevitable. Accept this. Live as though the Grim Reaper may knock on your door tomorrow because one day, he will.
Converse with strangers from different backgrounds. If liberal, befriend conservatives. If conservative, befriend liberals. We agree on far more things than disagree.
Make art daily, so when you reach old age, you have a lifetime of beauty to remember6.
The world is one big small town. Treat its residents accordingly. Serve your community selflessly and it will repay in kind. Youth, friends, lovers, coworkers and neighbors all come and go. Family binds you to your ancestry and is the only thing that survives you. You are the microphone of your ancestors.
Forgive your parents; they were young once, too. Where they failed, do not7. Raise children intelligently, you owe it to your grandparents. Teach your daughters to be warriors and your sons to be artists. They will find their own path. Love them regardless.
Be welcoming to strangers. Odin walks among us. True friends will offer a lift when you’re stranded or a sofa for the night. Don’t overstay your welcome. Build yourself an army so you have ground to go to.
Being hated for your honesty is more honorable than being loved for your deception. Lies are hard to remember but the truth is easy to corroborate. Plagiarists always get caught, so cite your sources — this editorial’s sources are all cited in the online version.
Send love letters, handwritten and in envelopes. Keep a box of all the love letters you receive. Attend weddings and funerals whenever possible. Ceremonies bind us to our history and remind us of our humanity.
Write poetry, even if it never leaves your notebook. If it does, proclaim it loudly from the stage.
It takes guts to say “goodbye,”10 “I’m sorry” and “I love you.” Be brave. Love like a brass section; love like brass knuckles11.
Ask for advice from your elders. The best is offered freely. Take what you need and make a list. Change it whenever you change yourself 13, 14, 15 and,16. When you are old, offer advice to any open ears. Some may forget it, others may ignore it, but a handful may take your best lines and repeat them in ages and ages hence.
The past is unchangeable, the future is unknowable17. You live in the moment between them18. Glory is fleeting but obscurity is forever. Become worth remembering.
Christopher Fox Graham
1: From the French proverb, "Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait"
2: Paraphrased from Frank Miller's comic book "Sin City," in which the dying Detective John Hartigan says of Nancy Callahan “An old man dies, a little girl lives. Fair trade.”
3: A paraphrased quote from Sedona outsider and folk art painter Brian Walker.
4: From slam poet Seth Walker
5: On March 13, 1964, 28-year-old Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death in Kew Gardens, Queens, New York. Despite 37 witnesses, no one called police, assuming someone else had. The New York Times condemned the witnesses in an editorial for their indifference to her murder.
6: “... the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars," Jack Kerouac, from "On the Road."
7: "All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his," Oscar Wilde, from "The Importance of Being Ernest"
8: "I have no desire to prove anything by it. I have never used it as an outlet or a means of expressing myself. I just dance," Fred Astaire, from "Steps in Time".
9: Paraphrased from "If This Poem," by the late Sedona poet Christopher Lane.
10: From Flagstaff slam poet Ryan Brown, now teaching English in South Korea
11: From Sedona slam poet Claire Pearson
12: Paraphrased from New York slam poet Taylor Mali's poem "Totally Like Whatever, You Know?"
17: In special and general relativity, a light cone is the path that a flash of light, emanating from a single event (localized to a single point in space and a single moment in time) and traveling in all directions, would take through spacetime. If one imagines the light confined to a two-dimensional plane, the light from the flash spreads out in a circle after the event E occurs, and if we graph the growing circle with the vertical axis of the graph representing time, the result is a cone, known as the future light cone. The past light cone behaves like the future light cone in reverse, a circle which contracts in radius at the speed of light until it converges to a point at the exact position and time of the event E. In reality, there are three space dimensions, so the light would actually form an expanding or contracting sphere in three-dimensional (3D) space rather than a circle in 2D, and the light cone would actually be a four-dimensional version of a cone whose cross-sections form 3D spheres (analogous to a normal three-dimensional cone whose cross-sections form 2D circles), but the concept is easier to visualize with the number of spatial dimensions reduced from three to two.
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