We commend the graduating classes of 2013: kindergartners, eighth-graders and seniors of all kinds. For many of you this will be a summer of transition, when you shed the familiar and welcome the new and even the unexpected.
Change can come from within or be imposed from without. Some welcome its invigorating possibilities and others are frightened at the prospect. Still others say that change is constant.
Hericleitus of Ephesus, who is said to have believed that existence is a state of constant flux, cautioned, “Everything changes and nothing remains still ... and ... you cannot step twice into the same stream.”
He might have been pleased that a discount clothing giant borrowed his idea for an advertising slogan.
A couple of millennia later, Phil Ochs, a folk singer in the 1960s penned these lyrics:
The world's spinning madly, it drifts in the dark
Swings through a hollow of haze,
A race around the stars, a journey through
The universe ablaze with changes.
Change has its price, of course. “Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change,” wrote Mary Shelley in “Frankenstein.”
Barring actual transmogrification, though, most may find that the pain of transition is but a scrape on the knee – superficial and easily forgotten. And the reward is always a new perspective.
Our own Frances Willard not only embraced change but was a catalyst for suffrage and temperance. At the age of 53 she took on the challenge of the bicycle and learned to ride Gladys, her bike. In her small book, “How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle” we see the determination of this powerful and influential woman:
“If I am asked to explain why I learned the bicycle I should say I did it as an act of grace, if not of actual religion. The cardinal doctrine laid down by my physician was, ‘Live out of doors and take congenial exercise’; but from the day when, at 16 years of age, I was enwrapped in the long skirts that impeded every footstep, I have detested walking and felt with a certain noble disdain that the conventions of life had cut me off from what in the freedom of my prairie home had been one of life’s sweetest joys.
“Driving is not real exercise; it does not renovate the river of blood that flows so sluggishly in the veins of those who from any cause have lost the natural adjustment of brain to brawn. Horseback-riding, which does promise vigorous exercise, is expensive. The bicycle meets all the conditions and will ere long come within the reach of all.
“Therefore, in obedience to the laws of health, I learned to ride. I also wanted to help women to a wider world, for I hold that the more interests women and men can have in common, in thought, word, and deed, the happier will it be for the home. Besides, there was a special value to women in the conquest of the bicycle by a woman in her fifty-third year …”
Others have offered thoughts on change:
C.S. Lewis: “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: It would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”
Maya Angelou: “Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation ….”
Lao Tzu: “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
Michael Jordan: If you accept the expectations of others, especially negative ones, then you never will change the outcome.
For the next stage of your life, all you graduates, we wish you health, challenge and change.
If you are leaving, consider these words from Terry Pratchett: “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
Pack up your things and your memories. And if you have a few qualms about the changes in store, take along your Magic 8 Ball.