‘Tis the season for glorious life advice dispensed by cap-and-gown-clad elders to cap-and-gown-clad youngsters, emanating a halo effect of timeless wisdom the rest of us can absorb any day, at any stage of life. On May 20, 1990, Bill Watterson, creator of the beloved Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, took the podium at Kenyon College — the same stage David Foster Wallace would occupy 18 years later to deliver one of history’s most memorable commencement addresses — and gave the graduating class in a gift of equally remarkable insight and impact.
Watterson begins the speech by articulating the same sentiment at the heart ofthe most unforgettable commencement addresses: the notion that not-knowing is not only a part of the journey, but an integral part:
I have a recurring dream about Kenyon. In it, I’m walking to the post office on the way to my first class at the start of the school year. Suddenly it occurs to me that I don’t have my schedule memorized, and I’m not sure which classes I’m taking, or where exactly I’m supposed to be going.
As I walk up the steps to the postoffice, I realize I don’t have my box key, and in fact, I can’t remember what my box number is. I’m certain that everyone I know has written me a letter, but I can’t get them. I get more flustered and annoyed by the minute. I head back to Middle Path, racking my brains and asking myself, “How many more years until I graduate? …Wait, didn’t I graduate already?? How old AM I?” Then I wake up.
Experience is food for the brain. And four years at Kenyon is a rich meal. I suppose it should be no surprise that your brains will probably burp up Kenyon for a long time. And I think the reason I keep having the dream is because its central image is a metaphor for a good part of life: that is, not knowing where you’re going or what you’re doing.
Swipe Files Note from the Editor: And, goddamn, can I say — Brain Pickings is one of the most…god, dare I say, inspiring, sites out there for writers of all walks. I feel slightly guilty using a healthy selection of their material for my swipe file influence — but then I don’t so it works out.