So, six days after the last commencement I attended I now have to go give one of those speeches that I despise at my own commencement. Since all you lovely readers will not be able to make it to see me, I’ve decided to post my speech here (semi-philosophical in nature). Also, I will not have the time before I leave to read another chapter for a “book club” post. I will not be around until tomorrow night (but a six hour car trip that I am not driving should give me plenty of reading time).
Here it is:
I must admit that when I was asked to give this speech, my immediate reaction was, “Of course not!” I am very different from the majority of you in almost every aspect imaginable. I did not grow up in this area, I am not of the majority religion, my viewpoints on academics and learning are unlike the majority, and so on. This speech is supposed to be some sort of reflection on my years here that everyone here can relate to. I was the wrong choice.
Then I began to think about possible topics. Everything that came to mind was some blanket cliché that wouldn’t reflect the truth about my experience. After some more thought, I came to realize that rejecting this speech would just add one more layer to what I consider to be a four-year-long struggle with a single concept: specialization. Let me explain my situation:
I entered YSU as a music composition major. I became labeled at that moment. Every time I become labeled and forced into a box (quite literally in the practice rooms) I rebel. I can’t stand the idea of specialization. I then switched to a math major. Once I started getting good math, I became labeled again as a “smart math genius.” Like usual, I rebelled again. I started dabbling in physics and very seriously in philosophy as well. Finally, I wrote my honors thesis in the philosophy of aesthetics as a final effort to break my label of mathematician.
Why am I against specialization? This was a tough question. Somehow I realized that you miss something when you specialize. I saw this when examining some of the greatest achievements of mankind. From my own skewed viewpoint, one of these achievements is the work Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter. This great work examines consciousness from a wide variety of viewpoints including art, biology, computer science, mathematics, logic, and more. This truly original work of art presents some of the most comprehensive views on life I’ve ever read.
Douglas Hofstadter has a Ph.D. in physics. If he had let the world of specialization dictate his research and ideas, this would never have been possible. David Foster Wallace, an author, also talks about this idea of unification of all things. He was trained as a philosopher and mathematician, but writes novels now to express what he calls “the click.” Any work has “the click” if it somehow expresses life as a whole and not just some tiny detail. You may be wondering, “How does this affect you?”
We live in a world of forced specialization. There is no doubt about the effectiveness or necessity of specialization, but you must remember to not let it run your life. Whether you intend to enter the work force, become an artist, continue your education, or whatever, people will continue to force you into the box of their deciding. If you allow this to happen, you will probably become unhappy. This is because you are missing something: “the click.” Whenever you feel this happening, I urge you to take up something new. Look at life through different eyes. Hopefully, through time you will come to see the interconnectedness of all things.
This brings me back to my first point. I didn’t know how I was going to connect with you, because I was only focusing on the differences. I was focusing on the specialization. I had fallen into my own trap. I just needed to step back and realize that we are only on the surface different. Underneath it all, we are all connected. Thank you.