In thinking and planning what potential pearls I could lay at your feet today I did a fair amount of research. I was looking for that one thing that I could build on. Commencement speeches are replete with motivational snippets related to the future, following you dreams, finding your passion, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
thought about the numerous addresses I have personally heard. Was there
anything in there that I could cling to? Not really – lots of personal
anecdotal stories with de rigueur morals, again related to finding your
passion, following your dreams, setting goals, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Closed doors or windows leading to new ones for opening? I thought any simile related to that notion would be inappropriate as the physical doors here will never be closed to these graduates. Neither will the emotional, spiritual, or intellectual ones for that matter.
Well, I’m a teacher of science, an advocate of applying scientific thought and laws to all disciplines. I’m also a lover of Dr. Seuss. Is there something in there?
Journeys and energies, why not?
The 1st Law of Thermodynamics, as you know, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only change form. I believe this is not only a physical law, but a metaphysical one. As a culture we place a high regard on children’s futures. We invest all types of energy in them – emotional, intellectual, spiritual, physical, and monetary because we believe it will “pay off in the future”. Public schools were started, not to celebrate students in the moment, but to make them better citizens in the future. Most schools follow this paradigm and view their students as empty vessels to be filled, but not this one. The Charter School is a different kind of school. Here, learning is a journey, not a job. We are family.
This group of graduates truly represents a microcosm of the diversity we find in any family (but especially ours); unique in their outlook, unique in their approach, unique in their dress, and unique because they have become our loves.
Today is a day of energy transformation. Today we stand at a crossroads on our own personal journeys. Some of us have been traveling and transforming energies together for a long time. Our party has recently been blessed with additional adventurers – fellow travelers who have brought with them their own sense of wonder, their own sense of self, and their own energy. Our time in these woods, in these waters, on this island, and in this building has been challenging, but mostly it has been a joy because WE GET IT. We get that families are strongest when the individual diversity of each member is honored and appreciated and all are united by the energy of a common goal.
Speaking (if I may) on behalf of all who have journeyed with you and transformed energy with you up till now, our common goal has been to bring you to this juncture with the trust and hope that we have taught you a little something about how to navigate and chart a future – how to turn your potential energy into kinetic energy.
Most of these graduates have gone on a “walkabout” with Jonah. Prior to your actually making the trek to Maine, Vermont, or New Hampshire you spent some time and invested energy in preparation. You learned some first aid. You discussed the importance of choosing carefully which items to bring. You learned how to read a topographical map. You made light and nutritious foods, and you hiked for miles around school with weights in your backpacks. I am sure that once you found yourself in the wilderness you were thankful for the prior challenge – for the preparation. I’m sure that little window of experience made the real walkabout an easier one. What you have been doing as students up till now has been similar. Only this time the “walkabout” is your future life.
We trust that we have taught you how to set a goal and reach it. We trust that you have begun, if not fully discovered, some passion or passions that will lead you to new roads – roads that will move you outward as well as inward. We trust that you have experienced the undertaking of work that is personally meaningful and not just useful, because there is a great difference between the two.
The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states all things tend toward entropy which is disorder. In other words you have to put energy into a system to keep it organized and operational. This is true of your biological entity – that’s why you eat. It is true of your bedrooms – this is why you clean them (hopefully), and it is also true of anything you do – take a course, raise a family, or create a piece of art.
We are all an amalgamation of our experiences, our own energy transformations. It is through these that we build our past, our present, and our future. When you come to another crossroads – and there’s no doubt you will – do not forget your past entirely. But make the concerted effort to putting your energy into focusing more intently on who you are in that moment. Forget about what you have been in the past and focus on who you want to be in the future. Then transform your energy into becoming that person.
All travelers need to pack some necessities. Add your experiences to your backpacks. Remember to pack it lightly, you don’t want to carry too heavy a load, but don’t forget the essentials. What might they be, you may well ask!
Pack the boundless (and weightless) hope that we have for your future. Pack the sense of accomplishment you feel for yourselves at having reached this crossroad. Pack the joy that everyone assembled here today is shining on you. Pull these out of your luggage when you need a boost of positive energy or when you need a beacon in the darkness. Pack the willingness to work for yourselves and others. Remember that this should be heavy enough to remind you that you are human and belong to the family of man.
While I have your ears and the openness of your hearts and minds, let me see if I can give one more pearl to add to your backpacks as we part company.
It’s o.k. to “go with the flow” - sometimes. But you have experienced its extremes when you have found yourself in a rip tide. You know that in order to not be brought out to sea you have to expend energy to keep your wits about you, to swim strongly, parallel to the shore, to keep your eyes on solid ground and stroke until you are out of danger. Remember to pull your experiences and their potential energies out and use them to weather any “rips” you may encounter.
A journey is not about seeing your surroundings. A journey is a change that occurs deeply and personally. It is not about how you are going to travel, but how you are going to live.
So follow the roads that beckon you. Let them lead you to all the moments and mementos that you will collect on your journeys ahead.
And – “Oh, the places you’ll go”!