Sometimes we like to highlight inspiring commencement speeches by geek icons like Neil Gaiman. This time, it was Joss Whedon delivering the sage advice in a speech given to the Wesleyan University Class of 2013 on Saturday. Whedon, who graduated from Wesleyan in 1987, started his speech with a warning to his fellow alumni: “You are all going to die.”
It goes uphill from there, with Whedon adding, “I don’t know if your parents explained this to you about the world, but . . . we broke it? We’re sorry?”
Then he gets to the real meat of his speech. (Emphasis ours.)
Let’s just say, hypothetically, that two roads diverged in the woods and you took the path less traveled. Part of you is just going, “Look at that path! Over there, it’s much better. Everyone is traveling on it. It’s paved, and there’s like a Starbucks every 40 yards. This is wrong. In this one, there’s nettles and Robert Frost’s body—somebody should have moved that—it just feels weird. And not only does your mind tell you this, it is on that other path, it is behaving as though it is on that path. It is doing the opposite of what you are doing. And for your entire life, you will be doing, on some level, the opposite—not only of what you were doing—but of what you think you are. That is just going to go on. What you do with all your heart, you will do the opposite of. And what you need to do is to honor that, to understand it, to unearth it, to listen to this other voice.
You have, which is a rare thing, that ability and the responsibility to listen to the dissent in yourself, to at least give it the floor, because it is the key—not only to consciousness-but to real growth. To accept duality is to earn identity. And identity is something that you are constantly earning. It is not just who you are. It is a process that you must be active in. It’s not just parroting your parents or the thoughts of your learned teachers. It is now more than ever about understanding yourself so you can become yourself.
And another quote:
The best thing is not just the idea of honest debate. The best thing is losing a debate because it means that you learned something and you changed your position. The only way, really, to understand your position and its worth is to understand the opposite. And that doesn’t mean the crazy guy on the radio who’s spewing hate. It means the decent human truths of all the people who feel a need to listen to that guy. You are connected to those people.
The whole speech is worth checking out. The video going around last night had horrible sound quality and constant wind noises. Thankfully, Wesleyan just posted this official version with better audio quality.
Full transcript available at Wesleyan.
(H/T: Brain Pickings)