“We live our lives like chips in a kaleidoscope, always parts of patterns that are larger than ourselves and somehow more than the sum of their parts.” -Salvador Minuchin
Here’s a commencement address I’d love to hear spoken gently, lovingly, and with real conviction to all graduates, at all graduations around the world: at high schools, colleges, and graduate schools:
It’s about you, but it’s not just about you.” I believe this message would be good for those in the audience to hear as well.
You matter. You are special. You are unique. And so are the other 7.13 billion human beings you need to learn how to share this planet with.
One needs to be careful at times of great celebration not to get preachy. Actually there’s no great time to get preachy. But a commencement ceremony is a particularly strategic place to point out the wonderfully complex, inter-relatedness of life, and then to challenge any folks who might still be listening to try to think at least as much about others as they do about themselves.
We are, as Minuchin points out, like chips in a kaleidoscope…part of a pattern much bigger than we can even imagine. We don’t get smaller with this realization, but our understanding of the world can get a whole lot bigger. And this is a good start.
In truth, there is no such thing as an “independent” person, a self-made person, a lone-ranger. You did not create yourself, you did not create the talents you’ve been blessed with, and you did not create the natural world you live in. Yes, you have the opportunity and responsibility to develop the life and talents you were given, and embrace the world around you, but this doesn’t happen in isolation either. You stand on the shoulders of others, who have sacrificed, struggled, and persevered in making your world better.
This is a ridiculously obvious insight, but insight has never guaranteed change. And in a culture that is increasingly privatized, and thus increasingly splintered and alienated, it’s best not to assume about anything that’s important.
So what do we do with this insight? We recognize the gift, we recognize the giver, and then we start saying thank you; thoughtfully, sincerely, and continuously. Life is a gift, health is a gift, love and friendship are gifts, freedom is a gift, truth is a gift, beauty is a gift, work is a gift, play is a gift, triumphs are a gift, struggles are a gift. And the opportunity to make a difference for the Good with all you’ve been given is perhaps the greatest gift of all.
Gratitude opens us up to all that is good, and to a deeper knowing that our world is not accidental, but Providential. It’s about you, but it’s not just about you. And you should be grateful for that!