Last month graduation ceremonies were celebrated throughout the country. Colleges and schools observed the completion of students’ studies with good wishes for future learning and success in life. With three granddaughters graduating, I enjoyed participating in these memorable moments of passage.
At one of these graduation exercises the valedictorian, Emily, commented that there was a hum in the air, “a subtle melody composed of the energy of our wishes, our hopes – our future. We are so tightly coiled tonight, so ready to spring out in the world. Who will we be? What will we do? Here, in this slice of green in a grey city, our buzzing thoughts can mingle with the buzzing atmosphere. I see all this natural beauty, and I think – the trees, the stars – tonight I almost envy them. A tree’s goal in life, their ‘future,’ is very simple: to go on indefinitely in their tree-ness. They do not angst and worry. A tree never bites its fingernails. And it is never so happy as when it is being truly, deeply, itself.” She went on to say, however, that we as lumbering sentient beings put all sorts of rules and regulations on our abilities and say, “We must do this—we must go here—-we must enjoy that. We run in all directions, we prowl cities and dorm rooms and self-help books and cry, ‘What are we going to be in this life?’ When in reality, we don’t have to be anything. We already are. We are humans.”
Her fine address reminded me that many look forward to the day when they will be someone. This usually means that one must achieve success admired by others. Our personal worth is thus determined by what others think of us – not in who we are. Yet, the gift of life given to us automatically makes us important beings, created in the image of the great Mystery. The challenge is to become fully human, embracing our spiritual and earthly natures to discover what it means to be whole and healthy human beings. Unlike a tree, we do have to reflect on values for our lives, but innate worth has already been given to us by God. That is cause for celebration whether or not we achieve public accolades.
Graduation for us is a willingness to discover and enjoy the gifts of beauty, the “atoms that nestle in the fabric of our graduation gowns that wriggle with the expectation of evening festivities. Our inner humanness, our deepest root is love and joy, and if we think that our jobs or college choices are somehow our true self, we have made mundane the beauty of our own humanity. All we’re meant to do is to run out in the middle of a thunderstorm and scream with the pure raw delight of being alive. All we’re meant to do is to hold out a hand to our fellow humans and say, ‘Come dance with me.’”