Once again this year, I was not asked to give a commencement address, but then again I have never been asked. I have some thoughts for the class of 2010 anyway.
Congratulations on your achievement, albeit a tiny fleck in the great expanse of human history. But this is not about you. It never was about you. It is about things much larger than you or me and much larger than any politician or celebrity.
Most of you have been in a classroom of some sort since you were around 3 years old. Other than life skills taught to you by your parents, which unfortunately are all too often lacking, everything you know and believe was taught to you by a professional academician. Well intentioned professionals most of them, but too many have never ventured far from their classrooms. They explain subjects to you in a way that makes perfect sense. Everything works well as it is laid out in the textbooks and theory, often too well. Mathematics is mathematics. There is only one correct answer. Not so for most every non-scientific subject that comprises most everything else that is taught. The professors you admire are human. Humans tend to glom onto theories and ideas they like and shun that which is counter. Suffice it to say that the possibility is strong that you did not get the high definition, 3D view of what happens after you leave this institution.
Some of you will not have help when you leave here. There is no trust fund and Daddy’s influence will not get you a well paying job for which you are woefully unqualified. You are the lucky ones. The ones who will come to understand what is bigger than you. Reality will be your new professor. Reality does not wax poetically some grand theory on how everything will be just perfect as long as you do as you were taught. No. Reality will humble you. You can cheat it, but not for long. Reality catches up. Reality eventually smacks you right in the mouth and keeps doing it until you are either a defeated bloody pulp of a person or until you learn what is truly bigger than you.
You are the most connected generation ever. It is not possible for an old timer like me to even keep up with all the means by which you connect to the world. What do you do some day when you wake and there is no smart phone, no Internet, no high speed connectivity? I may be going out on limb here, but my guess is that most of you have not penned a handwritten note to anyone since you brought Mom the Mother’s Day card you made for her in second grade. You are so connected to everything that you cannot see anything.
When you look at your cell phone, log on to your personal computer, spend hours surfing the social networking sites, call worldwide on your Internet telephone, or have a nice video chat with friends and family for free, do not think about those things. Think about how those things came about. When you understand what sort of society it takes to produce such miraculous devices and how that society came to be and what holds it up, you will just then begin to understand what it is that is bigger than you. You will just start to understand what you are obligated to protect for everyone who came before you and for all who will follow. Freedom. Freedom to express ideas. Freedom to seek wealth. Freedom to worship. Freedom is a gift to you. You are its guardian.
Finally, you have spent many years in an environment where many educated men and women have actually devoted time arguing that there is nothing beyond this. Mankind somehow happened. You are born. You live. You die. It is done. Nothing follows. What a dark and miserable mindset that must be. If nothing follows this life, what incentive is there to do this part well? There will come a time down reality’s trail that you will need some spiritual medicine, something to soothe a mind that must work hard these fast moving days. You will hear about meditation and new age methods of finding yourself in the universe. Give it a try, but I fear you will be back for the next solution after more bouts with reality. I know. I have traveled that road. Neither man nor method can provide you the inner peace that you seek. Nor can either set you free. In due time, my prayer is that you may know that.
While on your journey, be a good friend, be a good parent, be a good spouse, be a good neighbor, value your God given freedom and value honor. God has blessed you.