Don’t listen. It’s a tradition.

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Janice Lindsay

This is the season when schools and college all over America invite wise and/or famous persons to address graduating classes, so that these mature persons may impart life wisdom they were forced to gain all by themselves because, during their own graduation ceremonies, they weren’t listening to the wise and/or famous persons addressing them.

It’s a graduation tradition. Graduating persons have other things on their minds than advice from wise and/or famous persons.

At my college graduation, our speaker was Senator Edward M. Kennedy. I don’t know what he said. I wasn’t listening. I was too busy thinking about my new boyfriend, sitting a few rows in front of me. Eventually, I married my boyfriend, so he turned out to be much more significant to me personally than the senator ever was.

It is so hard to know, at any given moment, what you should pay attention to.

I have not been invited to speak at a single graduation. I say this without bitterness. I am so low on the list of wise and/or famous persons, by the time anybody gets to my name, there are no schools or colleges left that need speakers.

But I do collect advisory sayings from people wiser and more famous than me, so that if I ever did get invited to speak, I would have some wisdom to share – not that anybody would be listening, but at least I could inspire and amuse myself.

Since you’re reading this and not currently attending a graduation (or perhaps you are attending one and have mentally checked out), I share these sayings with you.

Aristotle. “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” We can be open-minded and examine a new idea, whether or not it seems agreeable to us at first glance. On the other hand, as one of my professors used to say, “Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.”

Arab proverb: “While the word is yet unspoken, you are master of it; when once it is spoken, it is master of you.” We can all remember a time (times?) when we exercised our right to free speech, only to wish that we hadn’t been so free with our speech. Or, as my wise husband used to say, “Never pass up a chance to shut up.”

Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor was ridiculed all her life, but she kept on keeping on and became a great lady. Her advice is easier to appreciate than to follow.

Mark Twain (maybe; attributed to others as well): “It ain’t so much the things we don’t know that get us into trouble. It’s the things we know that just ain’t so.”  We all know stuff that ain’t so. But now we can Google it.

Vincent Van Gogh: “I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it.” I’ve found, in my writing career, that a project that seems a little scary is often just the one I should tackle in order to keep learning. This does not extend, however, as in Vincent’s case, to learning how to cut off my own ear. There are limits.

Finally, a quote from humorist Dave Barry. “Your modern teenager is not about to listen to advice from an old person, defined as a person who remembers when there was no Velcro.”

I well remember when there was no Velcro. I do not expect to be asked for advice, even if I were considered to be a wise and/or famous person.

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