Jim Walsh: For the Graduates
Remember Kurt Vonnegut’s commencement address that made the viral rounds in the late ‘90s (“wear sunscreen”), which turned out to be a well-written column by Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune? Her faux commencement address? Her commencement address if asked to give one?
Here’s one by my friend Jim Walsh, which appeared this week in the Southwest Journal in, yes Jim, sexy South Minneapolis. Everyone who knows Jim Walsh will never mistake this for anyone but Jim Walsh.
Read it. Love it. Live it. Pass it on. (You can read more of Jim's stuff in Southwest Journal and MinnPost.)
For The Graduates
By Jim Walsh
May 28, 2009
I was in an ambulance for the first time in my life last week. As the morphine entered my system and the trees billowed past the window (Satan had entered my kidney; he hath since exited and I am yet again feeling lucky to be alive), I remembered a few things I’ve been wanting to tell you before I go:
- Even though the real world can feel overwhelming with all its war, poverty, stupidity, and fallible-to-foolish parents, don’t waste your life in front of a computer screen. Go outside and play.
- Before he died, singer/songwriter Warren Zevon said, “Enjoy every sandwich.” Meaning, of course, that tomorrow isn’t promised and that life is fragile. I would also say you should enjoy every ant, breath, bud, and magic moment, and, as often as possible, put yourself in situations where your and others’ enjoyment is maximized.
- When said enjoyment is happening, various wanton killjoys will try to rain on your parade. Don’t let them. Smile your wry smile and move on.
- The Bible’s most oft-cited mandate is “love the stranger.” Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that you start wrapping your arms around every Sven, Dick, and Lorna you run into, but at least talk to strangers. Here in Minnesota, that will get you plenty of arched whataya-selling? eyebrows, but more often than not it’s worth it.
- There is no such thing as “too much information.”
- Love and sex is more intense, interesting, and infinite than they make it look on TV. For the most part.
- When it comes to the future, heed the wise words of the Waterboys’ Mike Scott (“Dream harder”), and Suicide (“Dream, baby, dream”).
- When it comes to suicide, heed the wise words of Neil Young from Sleeps With Angels (“Change your mind”) and Dory from Finding Nemo (“Just keep swimming”).
- I can’t prove this with any scientific certitude, but it says here that every moment spent at the Mall Of America turns your flesh into polycarbonate plastic and your blood into Liquid Plumber.
- Unless, of course, you’re shopping at the LoveSac or Apple store. For me.
- When you’re in a dark place and thinking that you’re all alone, pick up a book. The human experience isn’t all that unique, and chances are better than even that you are not the first one to be going through what you’re going through.
- If you go through life open-hearted, you will at some point fall in love and very likely get your heart broken. This is not always a bad thing. In fact, this is unavoidable and welcome and normal, unless you are a zombie.
- If you are a zombie, find another zombie and go make out like only zombies can — under the Washburn water tower.
- At least once a week go to the Peace Garden and Bird Sanctuary at Lake Harriet and listen to the quiet. Then go to the Rose Gardens and sit on Karl Mueller’s bench and listen to the birds and yourself.
- When it comes to true love, heed the wise words of Neko Case: “I don’t care if forever never comes, ‘cause I’m holding out for that teenage feeling.”
- Don’t just type “LOL.” Do it. Hardily. Often. Until energy drink spouts out of your nose like anti-freeze from a spent hose.
- When people ask you what you want to be when you grow up, tell them to get back to you after they’ve listened to the Ramones’ version of Tom Waits’ “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.”
- When people try to convert you to their religion, tell them to get back to you after they’ve read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning,” the collected works of Joseph Campbell, Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha,” the Sufi poets Rumi and Rilke, and the new bumpersticker you just came up with: THANKS BUT THE WHO ALREADY FORGAVE ME.
- Give your mom the occasional unbidden foot massage.
- Give your dad the occasional unbidden neck rub.
- Work hard, but realize that competition will only take you so far. Collaboration and cooperation is more fun, more productive, and more heart- and brain-expanding. Keep in mind the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”
- And President Harry S. Truman: “It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”
- And President Barack Obama: “Never stop adding to your body of work.”
- And [your words here].