So you’re graduating from college, or maybe grad school. Perhaps you were even dumb enough to have gone to law school. And somewhere in the next three or four weeks, they’re going to put you in a cheap black robe, stick a flat, pointy hat on your skull and seat you in alphabetical order with a bunch of your peers, to listen to sage advice. Some captain of industry, shoestring Kennedy or fading middle-aged celebrity’s going to tell you where you’re headed, what you’ll see… what you ought to do. He’ll throw around words like “dare” and “strive,” and tell you to chase your passions. He’ll tell you life’s a “journey,” liken it to a trek up a mountain, a sea voyage or some historic Roman battle. You’ll sit there through a blinding hangover, stanching an urge to vomit, tuning out most of the words. You’ve heard it all before, the customary overtures and slogans, the charges to go out and “make a difference.” Yeah, yeah, yeah. Leave the world better than I found it. Check. Never lose a sense of wonder at the majesty of humanity. Indeed… And you’ll probably ask yourself, Why all the saccharine bullshit? Why not give me some real fucking advice?
I’m with you, kid. I thought exactly the same thing. The only interesting comment my university commencement speaker offered was, “Always be prepared to change professions. Try everything. Life’s short.” I never forgot that instruction; probably never will. Maybe that was a good thing, maybe not. But in the spirit of offering some similarly memorable advice, something that actually addresses the world you’re going to encounter, the people you’ll have to manipulate for the rest of your career, here’s the commencement address I’d give if I had the podium at your school. The one you’ll never, ever hear.
“Don’t Be the Punchline”
Good morning. I’d like to start by noting, you’re all fucked. The Market’s going to 6000 this summer, unemployment is headed to twenty percent and I think there’s a good chance we’re going to see widespread rioting in the streets before this thing is over. Mutant armies irradiated with dirty bomb fallout, dogs and cats living together… everything but the Rapture. My advice is buy a gun. Something automatic. And get some big dogs. You’ll need them to guard the compound. The good news is you won’t have to pay back those student loans. The bad news is you’ll have to turn tricks for Spam, candy corn and toilet paper, our new forms of currency. I know, I know… How bleak. But you can always look on the bright side. Speaking in the Confucian sense, you’re as wealthy as one can be. These are indeed interesting years. Here’s to surviving them.
Okay. Now that I have your attention, let’s get serious. I’m going to break this down to a series of discrete points, the only conceivable arrangement in which I could hope to impart advice on as general a subject as “How you ought to live your life.” Here we go:
1. Ignorance is bliss.
People will tell you to question, to look inside and underneath all the systems in our society and ask why do what we do. I say leave this to others. The inquiries will drive you mad.
Take you life in your
Own hands and what happens?
A terrible thing:
No one to blame