Tuesday, December 26, 2006


For a strange coincidence a couple of months ago I was reading the original (i.e. Greek) definition of the word hero. It is pretty interesting. Hero is a mythological character not a God and not necessarily related with Gods. A hero is a human able to do things which seem impossible to other people. Doing so the person becomes a hero and a symbol for the rest of the people. While I was reading that definition I thought that in order to be realy happy I should become the hero of my own life ... the quote that came out was ... "Become the hero of your own life" ... a quote that I did like and since then I repeated to myself every time I had to take an important decision, like when I had to decide to take a sabbatical. For an other strange coincidence today I did search with Google that exact quote. Of course I found that someone way before me came out with the same exact quote. And I found a wonderful speech by Doris "Granny D" Haddock. She is 96. I didn't know her before today, but I already love her. This is the speech. Reading it made me almost cry. I hope you have 5 minutes to read it. If I know you I bet these will be the best 5 minutes of your day.

Be Open to Your Own Genius
September 5, 2002
Speaking to students at Franklin Pierce College, New Hampshire

Thank You,
I know you all are grateful to be on campus and finally, safely away from all your grandparents and aunts and uncles who have been asking you what you will major in, what career you have chosen, and where you plan to retire and be buried. Older people are stuck in a view of the world that is quite rigid. You go to school --according to this view-- learn a trade or profession, get married, get a house, raise kids to take your place, have a well-attended funeral, and then do your part to increase New England's insufficient topsoil.
The institutions of great New England schools like Franklin Pierce are so reliably longstanding that they create a mirage of constancy, when in fact the world is changing rapidly and the plannable world of your parents and your aunts and uncles is being swept away.
For you, college will be a lifelong affair. You cannot learn enough here in four years to get you through your entire life. Your life will be about constant learning and growing through a number of related or unrelated careers, and that is a dramatic improvement in the condition of human beings --if life is about maximizing our potential, which it indeed is.
You will have a number of personal relationships in your life. I am glad to have had one marriage to one husband, but your life may well be quite different. While I recommend loyalty, I know the statistics today.
The bright side of this difficult emotional terrain is that you will have the opportunity to experience enriching pain and you will have the advantage of essentially living several lives, to my one.
Of all the shifting sands your tents will be pitched upon, perhaps the condition of the earth's ecosystem and its democracies will present you with the greatest changes and challenges. If the great present division persists between the world's poor and rich, I assure you that you will live in a violent world, and that the tragedy of September 11 will be remembered as the beginning of such things in your experience.
If the great exploitation of the earth's resources persists at the expense of sustainability, you will experience the flooding of Venice and other great seacoast cities and treasured beaches, and you will curse the generation before you that let it happen without trying harder to end the corruption and the selfish misuse of resources. But you will learn to adapt and to fight for the planet's survival. Your career and your life will be about this struggle, one way or the other.
Yours may be the most privileged generation to ever have lived upon earth. I don't mean that you have soft advantages, but that you find yourself in a time when your individual contribution will have a heroic importance to the world. This may sound overblown. It may make no sense to you for an old woman to stand here and tell you that you, personally, are the hero or heroine whose actions will decide things for a troubled world. But I think that may indeed be the case. Our lives are more beautifully linked than you can imagine, and the genius of one life can affect all the others in unimaginable ways.
You must become the hero of your own life in any case, and that is enough for your happiness, regardless of your degree of extension into the world.
Finding your genius is sometimes a hard trick. Sometimes it is easily spotted, embraced and nurtured. But some of you will not find it until you are old and gray. Some of you will never find it, though it was always there for you to find, I assure you.
Sometimes we see it and do not want to find it quite where it pops up. "Well, yes, I happen to be very good at that, but, Dear Lord, I don't want to be that for life."
Indeed, you may turn away from your own genius many times before it comes knocking with a baseball bat on some dark night of the soul.
Be open to your own genius. Fearlessly try everything in life. See what gives you energy instead of taking your energy away. Discover the things that keep you joyfully up until 6 a.m. Sex, of course, doesn't count, because we are all geniuses at thinking about that. It's a given.
If you can't get excited about anything in the way of a first career, don't despair. Keep exploring. You are on a Grail quest, and your quest will be rewarded if you keep combing through life, looking for the thing that sparkles for you. It is there, believe me. It is your soul. It is your life's work.
Finding your soul is a great project. But it is not the only happiness to be enjoyed in your life --especially in these glory days of your youth. Take time each day to look at the beautiful lives around you. Look with love from above at these lives, and be a force for good in them. My, we all need each other very much. There is no better way to find your own heart than to look with kindness to the needs of others. We cannot find ourselves except though friendship and love and serious respect for the lives around us.
I spoke at a graduation here two years ago. When the student newspaper of Dartmouth heard about that, they kidded that Dartmouth was trying to keep up by getting the old "where's the beef" lady for their own commencement. But you are staying far ahead of Dartmouth in this game by seeing their "where's the beef" lady and raising them another Haddock. And I will, if you like, meet their old woman in a fair fight and I shall have her on the ropes because I know where the beef is. I know the answer to the big question. The big question is "what are we to do with our lives?" And the beefy answer is this: we are to look at this life with eyes of love and find for our hands those things that bring us the most joy and curious interest. That is a simple prescription for a happy life and a happy college career, and I challenge Dartmouth to see if their old woman can do any better for them than I have done for you.
Thank you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

really nice

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