Joss Whedon’s Uplifting Commencement Address Notes “You Are All Going to Die”
Unless you test well with audiences, in which case you get a TV show. Just ask Agent Coulson!
Leave it to actual God of Death Joss Whedon to open his commencement speech to Wesleyan College with the phrase “You are all going to die.” It gets more uplifting and inspirational from there, of course, as the writer/director of Avengers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame offers some clever words of wisdom to the most recent graduating class of his alma mater. Specifically he talks about the inherent contradictions that exist in being human, and how your identity as a person exists in those contradictions. He also pokes fun at Bill Cosby. It’s an interesting speech.
You have, which is a rare thing, that ability and the responsibility to listen to the dissent in yourself, to at least give it the floor, because it is the key — not only to consciousness — but to real growth. To accept duality is to earn identity. And identity is something that you are constantly earning. It is not just who you are. It is a process that you must be active in. It’s not just parroting your parents or the thoughts of your learned teachers. It is now more than ever about understanding yourself so you can become yourself.
I talk about this contradiction, and this tension, there’s two things I want to say about it. One, it never goes away. And if you think that achieving something, if you think that solving something, if you think a career or a relationship will quiet that voice, it will not. If you think that happiness means total peace, you will never be happy. Peace comes from the acceptance of the part of you that can never be at peace. It will always be in conflict. If you accept that, everything gets a lot better.
Later in the speech he talks about how you don’t have to actively seek out changing the world because you’re doing that just by existing, which, let me tell you, is really comforting to hear even if you’re not currently being dumped into the real world by a cozy collegiate system that no longer wants you around:
You do not pass through this life, it passes through you. You experience it, you interpret it, you act, and then it is different. That happens constantly. You are changing the world. You always have been, and now, it becomes real on a level that it hasn’t been before.
A full transcript of the speech can be found at the Wesleyan website and it’s worth checking out in its entirety, especially if you’re the type of person that I am and you’re not good with gradual change. It’s okay, guys! Breathe. Joss Whedon is telling you to breathe. After all, you’re definitely not a character on one of his television shows, so you’re going to be just fine.