Graduation Matters


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[Note: I like to post heavily researched articles with long quotations. But this year, my mental energy is spent more on tutoring and a other writing projects, so there are fewer articles, which is fine.

I thought it might still be fun to post shorter, more casual opinions on other topics. The best we can possibly do is to help others through the places that we have been–so I will try to post things that I know about….which is precious little.]

Here’s one: Graduation matters

I didn’t attend my undergraduate graduation exercises, and I regret it. I’ve heard other new graduates express that graduating wasn’t really an accomplishment–getting in was the hard part, and the rest was expected. I said something similar at my own high school graduation–that it didn’t matter because Virginia law required us to graduate. I crankily added that the ceremony was meaningless.

Well–those are wrong. Graduating does matter, and it’s not guaranteed. Yes, getting into college is hard. Yes, graduating high school is required. But it still takes work to get there–real work.

That diploma wasn’t guaranteed in the admissions letter; the law didn’t bestow a sealed diploma upon you because you turned 18. A lot of people drop out–of high school and college. Sticking with it requires discipline, effort, and showing up.

Showing up is highly underrated. Show up enough, and you get places and meet people. Stay home too much and you don’t. Often, it’s that simple.

It’s true that graduating isn’t the end of the road. There is no end. But even if it’s not an end, it’s a still a landmark worth slowing down and savoring. Seriously, if life is road trip, the destination is death–so enjoy the rest stops. Don’t say they don’t matter because they aren’t the end.

Further, by enjoy–I don’t mean total hedonism. I mean, look with gratitude at what you’ve done; what God has accomplished and ponder where he may be calling you next.

Enjoyment is where the ceremony comes in. It’s a ritual. Rituals are not empty, cult events. They are markers of culture and what a culture venerates as meaningful and worth remembering. How do we remember things as a group? Ritual. (That’s what the Catholic Mass is: a ritual that also, miraculously, serves to make present the reality we are remembering).

Rituals are not empty; they are us participating in a long line of tradition and culturally handed down values. No man is an island. Our culture and communities matter; they are not merely external to individuals, but an important component of who we are. The Aristotelian philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre wrote about our interdependence in communities in his book “Dependent Rational Animals,” where he argued that human dependence on each other is an integral but often overlooked (in the Western tradition) aspect of the moral life, or what it means to live well.

The take-away: enjoy graduation. Savor the accomplishment–even while reflecting with gratitude on all the people and circumstances that helped you get there. While no one accomplishes much all on their own, each person’s unique contribution is an integral thread of the tapestry whose current pattern is an accomplishment.

Did you ever skip a graduation ceremony? Why or why not? Are you glad you went or didn’t go? Are rituals really empty?


8 Principles for Using Facebook Well

Following on the heels of my post how facebook has changed our perception of success to a standard that often leaves us feeling inadequate, I have some guidelines to contribute to help one use facebook happily and well.

[This is actually something I’ve thought a lot about because I had a very destructive relationship with the site a lot during college, then spent years barely using it, and now have returned to better results.]

1. Be friends with only your real friends.

It isn’t necessary to “friend” everyone you meet. Close friends and family members are the real people you want to stay in touch with, so resist the urge to keep tabs on random people from high school and college. Stick to following people you actually care about; this makes it more fun to share things (since the people are actually close to you), and it makes updates more interesting since you care about them too.

For me, I do this through purging my friend list a few times a year. I never un-friend because of an argument or anger. It’s just an acknowledgement that I don’t really know the person anymore (if I ever did) and thus my goal is that the person not even notice our digital disconnect.

If this is too extreme for you, consider making a list of close friends or contacts to share more with. Facebook has lots of privacy and group options. Use them!

Also, there are other sites for cultivating more of a public following…like Twitter or WordPress. Or, if you really must facebook for publicity, make yourself a “page” and keep it separate from your profile.

2. Don’t use friendship as a weapon

This follows from the first one, but seriously, don’t un-friend people just because you are mad at them. That’s being really passive/aggressive online. And it also means that there is way too much emotion invested that is being expressed over screens and not between persons. If something is that big a deal to you, find a way to resolve it. Friendship vengeance is not a solution.

3. Keep it positive. Continue reading