Monday, July 14, 2008

For the Snarkmarket Commencement File

Over at Snarkmarket, they love commencement speeches, so I'll jump on this one in advance: Patton Oswalt's speech at his high school alma mater. It includes a great joke about commencement speeches:

So, 1987.    That’s when I got my diploma.   But I want to tell you something that happened the week before I graduated.   It was life-changing, it was profound, and it was deeper than I realized at the time.

The week before graduation I strangled a hobo.   Oh wait, that’s a different story.   That was college.   I’m speaking at my college later this month.  I’ve got both speeches here.    Let me sum up the college speech – always have a gallon of bleach in your trunk.
And some experience:
I’ve seen endless daylight and darkness in Alaska.   I’ve swum in volcanic craters in Hawaii and saw the mystical green flash when the sun sinks behind the Pacific.   I got ripped on absinthe in Prague and watched the sun rise over the synagogue where the Golem is supposedly locked in the attic.   I stood under the creepy shadow of Christchurch Spitafields, in London’s East End, and sank a pint next door at The Ten Bells, where two of Jack the Ripper’s victims were last seen drinking.   I’ve fed gulls at the harbor in Galway, Ireland.   I’ve done impromptu Bloomsday tours of Dublin.
And also some wisdom:
All of you have been given a harsh gift.  It’s the same gift the graduating class of 1917, and 1938, and 1968 and now you guys got – the chance to enter adulthood when the world teeters on the rim of the sphincter of oblivion.    You’re jumping into the deep end.   You have no choice but to be exceptional.

But please don’t mistake miles traveled, and money earned, and fame accumulated for who you are.   

Because now I understand how the miraculous, horrifying and memorable lurk everywhere.    But they’re hidden to the kind of person I was when I graduated high school.

1 comment:

Robin Sloan said...

Wow -- I was *very* excited to read this, but totally underwhelmed. He went from a sharp setup to pretty lackluster platitudes.

Same approach as David Foster Wallace's, but w/out any particularly penetrating insight.

Which I hate to say, b/c I love Patton Oswalt!