Usually when you hear about the commencement speaker at a Catholic graduation, it's not about the things they had to say to the graduates. In fact usually it's long before they speak at all, it's someone complaining about their background, their positions on certain issues.
But each year around the country people give amazing talks to our Catholic graduates, talks that have something to say not just to young people about to embark on the next adventure of their lives, but for those of us already long in the midst of all that, and maybe wondering whether we'vepacked enough sandwiches, or where we might find a life preserver.
Over the next few weeks I'm going to post selections from some of this year's speakers at Catholic universities in California. Food for the journeys that we're all on.
Loyola Marymount University, Graduate School Graduation, May 10th
Mexican-American Film and TV Writer and Producer (“Alias”, “Fringe”, “Transformers”, “Star Trek”)
Contemporary scientist Niels Bohr—architect of the atom, famous debater against Einstein over quantum mechanics—said that the opposite of a fact is a falsehood. But he opposite of a great truth may very well be another great truth. Perhaps a long way of saying that life can be full of contradictions....
I am old enough to remember being surprised by the insurgence of cell phones and the internet and social media, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter --whatever you kids do today.
And these innovations are like the printing press, they’ve encouraged us to share our ideas and get our ideas from other people in a way we never could before. But they’ve also put a great pressure on us, as your great achievement today has done as well—the pressure to stand out, to become rock stars and movie gods. To define yourself by how many likes, how many followers, how many friends you have online.
And you have an advantage, you have the accreditation of this amazing place. But all of the above is a double-edged sword, and it can cut you. The pursuit of shallow waters can still drown you.
But you don’t have to drown. Money and fame are nothing to be scoffed at, but success has many definitions. And it’s up to you to define the definition of success for yourself. The more narrow and unique your definition of success, the more successful you will be.
I want to close with a book appropriately that my mother introduced to me as a teen. In a way the title is the most prescient thing, but on its first page is the definition of love. And the definition is, Love is being able and willing to stand by someone who is suffering knowing that you are powerless to ease their suffering.
And the title and the message of the book is “If You Meet The Buddha on the Road, Kill Him.” And I asked my mother, What does that mean? She said, it means there are a lot of false idols in this world, and if someone pretends they have the answers, that they are the great authority on something, they can be learned from, but ultimately they must be ignored. You are your own great authority. Your authority has to come from you, and maybe from God.
So stop listening to me now, false idol. You have to get on with it.