On Commencement

OK. One more gripe about western conventions and assumptions before I move on to something more related to the initial intentions of this blog. Today was my brother’s undergraduate commencement (and next Sat will be my own…of which I will post my speech that I am giving at it (after I give it)). So the first comment is on meaningless ceremony in general.

It just seems like a giant ceremony like commencement is putting so much emphasis on the wrong thing. It is giving people a false impression. Despite the big show (i.e. commencement), graduation really isn’t something to take seriously. Pre-commencement and post-commencement you are essentially no different. Only a few hours have passed. You are probably more tired. Some of your cells are different, etc. But there seems to be this general consensus that after you graduate you are completely different. I don’t know how to express what I’m trying to express here, so I’ll move on to the other main point.

The other false emphasis is on accomplishment. All the speeches given have one gigantically ingrained western idea in them: that accomplishment is somehow inherently good. We should be “proud,” and “honored” et cetera. How about this? You do what you love doing, because you love doing it. If you get a degree or two along the way, that is fine. No need to be proud or anything. That is just one path to take. If you don’t get a degree. That is fine, too. The worst thing would be to somehow “suffer” your way through college, because you “have to” and it is somehow not something you love doing. This concept is what causes people to feel “accomplished” and “proud.” They won some sort of battle. This is so falsely rooted.

Even the speeches that manage to capture this idea are still missing a fundamental point. They are too short sighted. The above paragraph even misses it. That “doing what you love” is somehow inherently “good.” We live. Then we die. What was the point of spending that time doing what you love? You could have just as well done something you hate. Why try to save the environment in order to keep the human race alive? Why create medicine that cures disease to keep people alive longer? You are just prolonging the inevitable.

While listening to all these speeches I just wanted to stab my eye out. I wanted to shout to each piece of advise, “WHY?!” The answer they would give: It will make my life easier. It will save me from getting into the same trouble they had. It will do “good” (whatever that means) in the world. And on and on. But the question is only answered short term. Why in the long run?

Maybe it is like physics? The question just plain isn’t pertinent on a large scale. Freshmen physics one. You will always have that one student that will say, “If every action has an equal and opposite reaction, then shouldn’t all forces be balanced and acceleration is impossible?” Of course the answer is that you must isolate forces acting on what you are considering. You must narrow the focus. It just doesn’t make sense to analyze on such a large scale.

OK. So this went on way longer than I thought it would. It also reminds me that I want to do a The Fountain analysis here. Also, a preview for my new focus. Philosophy of math. I will first tackle the article The Pernicious Influence of Mathematics Upon Philosophy by Gian-Carlo Rota. So read up! I will then move on to the embodied mind theory of how mathematics is created.


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