Sit, Breathe, Read: An Open Commencement Address to the Class of 2017

Graduates of the Class of 2017, I am sorry. On behalf of humanity, I apologize for humanity. The sky is falling, the well has run dry, the end is nigh, and you have come too late to party at the emerald-goggled, cluster-fuck kegger that was the modern age. For that, for all of humanity’s irrevocable misdeeds, I apologize. Those who remain are left with one final task as our species slips from its autumnal years to wintry dementia and ultimately to darkness. We must sit and breathe and read.

Truly, reading is our only hope.

I do not wish to dwell upon how reading improves concentration, memory, vocabulary, and analytical as well as critical-thinking skills. You know this much. You have been students your entire lives. You have taken courses in language, literature, rhetoric, and composition. From today forward, you may never again be formally tested on reading comprehension. You will, however, be tested because you, for the rest of your lives, will remain students. Graduation is simply when your elders release your hands and stop ushering you along that straight and narrow road toward adulthood. The hard lessons begin now. I hope you have been paying attention.

If not, that’s okay. Reference the Self Help section at your local bookseller or library.

You may have found in your scholastic years that reading the course material results in better grades — if not for you, then for your more bookish classmates. Reading a textbook fills-in the gaps and clarifies or expounds the topics touched upon in lecture. The same goes for life. What have you missed? Where are the gaps in your knowledge? Reference Current Events and History.

Like any other endeavor, practice hones ability. Read and be a better reader because you read. But there is more to life than reading. Maybe, you would like to knit or bake or carve wooden spoons. Reference Crafts and Hobbies.

Reading, engaging in thoughts that are not your own, is proof that others exist. Reading is the greatest act of empathy. Reference Metaphysics or Memoirs and General Non-Fiction.

Reading explains reality through abstraction. You may have read of dragons. You may be able to define the term “dragon” or recognize a dragon from a drawing though you have never stood before one, smelt the brimstone of its breath, or felt its sabre-sharp talons rip your skin. Traditionally, dragons are behemoth, flying lizards that breathe fire, devour virgins, swindle honest laborers, and hoard massive treasure while their armor-like scales are impenetrable to conventional weaponry. A surface-level analysis of our world would suggest that dragons are not real. Still, dragons exist. Dragons are the plight of the destitute and dispossessed, the demons of temptation, and the indifference of otherwise well-mannered citizens. Do not be misled by what you see around you, dragons are real but there is hope. To paraphrase G. K. Chesterton, fiction reminds us that dragons can be beaten, seemingly insurmountable odds can be overcome. Reference Science-Fiction and Fantasy.

So, as you leave these hallowed halls of learning where you have been begged, prodded, bribed, and forced to read your way toward the very diploma that you are about to receive, I implore you, don’t stop now.

Never dismiss your neighbors. Never admit defeat in the face of adversity. Never give up on humanity. Never quit reading.

Our future is a cloud of maybes. Maybe, the sky is falling. Maybe, the well has run dry. Maybe, the end is nigh. But in no way have you come too late. Maybe, you are just in time. If the sky can be said to be falling, there are others across the globe who are striving to hold it up. They can use your help. They reach for you. They write to you. Pick up a book, learn, and lend a helping hand because maybe you — all of you — are just what this world needs.

– DC

* Featured image (“Graduation”) source: Wikimedia

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