Once I spoke at the eighth-grade graduation at Kimper Elementary on Upper John’s Creek and told those little matriculators: One, not to go around acting like Miley Cyrus; two, spend more time with their grandfathers to learn how to raise food and find it in the hills.
Neither Harvard nor a junior college has invited me since to say words fit to be etched in granite and recalled years later. So I went ahead and sort of wrote the speech to have it ready. Alas, another year’s gone by and I’m not getting any younger, so I will go on and share it with all of you:
As I gaze across this sea of young faces, most of you are not gazing back, but are staring into your hand as you struggle to keep nature at bay with gadgets. You are going to graduate from college, which means that your family has less money but you know a whole lot more. The more you know, the less ignorant you are. If you are not ignorant any more then you can go forth in this new world where isolation is impossible to maintain.
But, on this day, I am here to offer an apology. We have taught that ignorance and isolation are to be avoided, and that turned out to be real wrong, and we are sorry.
Our enemy now is terrorism, but you cannot terrorize the ignorant because they will not have heard about the struggles between mortals to whom to be over-admired is not enough and who go about gushing drivel, a race of spiders who must be allowed their webs.
The ignorant will probably know enough to keep on feeding themselves, and will keep on making babies, and that is probably enough to know.
There is nothing wrong with education ... or is there?
On reflection, it seems that ignorance is better. Education has promoted famine by making seed something you must buy. It has put children in brick buildings to be shot at, and taken them from the elders who know what is important for them to learn and taught them basketball or even worse, soccer, a great sport to know if you never plan to use your hands in life.
As for isolation, it may be the only way for us to survive. We have accepted as wisdom that a good thing would be to be in instant communication with everybody in the world and to spread information about, such that even the craziest person in the world becomes in effect the craziest person in your life and all the crazy people in the world are your problem and we make available to crazy-people instructions on how to do crazy things like make bombs.
We now allow psychopaths to broadcast their murders, rapists to broadcast their rapes and torturers to torture for all to see. Isolation, even if you have to marry your second cousin, means that you know who to keep an eye on in the community and what to keep out of his hands. Plus, when you marry a cousin and it ends in divorce, there is less likelihood that the other side will move the kids away.
Religion is always dangerous, but much less so if you are isolated to a group where everybody’s myth is the same. In a global society, we must contend with everybody’s religion and the ugly finish that results when somebody’s god commands the murder of the people of other gods.
Hubris is a Greek concept which appears in all the classic tragedies. It is sort of a combination of flawed pride and ambition, a flowerpot wanting to be a garden. Hubris makes a weapon out of religion, but back when we were ignorant and isolated we merely had to read about it and not be its victims.
So we have about given up all hope of a better past and the future is not what it used to be. As for now, my advice to you graduates is to go to the head of a hollow and hide. Plus, beware of invisible robot fish.
Reach Larry Webster, a Pikeville attorney, at email@example.com.