I have a wonderful friend who posts this simple line everywhere. And it has always stuck with me, as within its simplicity is true, raw struggle.
A while back I bookmarked a graduation speech by George Saunders to come back to – and I am so glad I did.
Speaking to this year’s class from Syracuse, Saunders took what can be the most banal of rituals straight into the heart of life. Like DFW before him, Saunders took the form, stripped away its pomposity and self-congratulations to issue a real challenge to the new ‘adults.’
Unlike those who try hard to convey Truth or Advice, Saunders honestly, optimistically and wholeheartedly believes:
YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE.
I want that. So much do I want that.
The practice of centering, prayer, writing, reading, yoga, hiking – all of it is searching for that kindness to myself toward this transformation. Saunders admits this is not easy.
“When young, we’re anxious – understandably – to find out if we’ve got what it takes. Can we succeed? Can we build a viable life for ourselves? But you – in particular you, of this generation – may have noticed a certain cyclical quality to ambition. …And this is actually O.K. If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously – as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers. We have to do that, to be our best selves.
Still, accomplishment is unreliable. “Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.”
The real issue, he contends, is to transform away from ‘success’ and toward kindness. Understand that the impact our love and tenderness has on others’ lives is what will ripple out – not the degrees, the job titles, or the paycheck.
To take every opportunity to extend kindness, even or perhaps because our inclinations tell us it’s too hard.
Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place.
Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.
Ay! I get to hug you in three weeks!