It’s the season of finales, summer movies, and celebrity commencement speeches. Joss Whedon — no stranger to the first two — spoke to the assembled graduates of his alma mater, Wesleyan University, this weekend. His speech expounded on the contradictions “between your body and your mind, your mind and itself” and was alternately rueful and humane, with a killer hook: “Don’t just live, be that other thing connected to death. Be life.”
His opening line? “Two roads diverged in a wood and…” Just kidding! But seriously, kids: “You are all going to die.” (What is this, a Joss Whedon show?)
The full text is here. Check out the video, starting at 2:40, and some of Whedon’s best lines, below.
The weird thing is, your body wants to die. On a cellular level that’s what it wants. And that’s — probably? — not what you want. I’m confronted by a great deal of grand and worthy ambition from this student body. You want to be politicians, social workers, you want to be artists. Your body’s ambition? Mulch. Your body wants to make some babies and then go in the ground and fertilize things. That’s it!
Let’s just say that, hypothetically, two roads diverged in a wood and you took the path less traveled. Part of you is going, “Look at that path over there! It’s much better! Everybody’s traveling on it and it’s…it’s paved and there’s like a Starbucks every 50 yards. This is wrong. This path’s got nettles and Robert Frost’s body and…somebody should have moved that, right? It feels weird.”
You have, which is a rare thing, the 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.