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Pine Nuts – Commencement

June 2, 2024 | McAvoy Lane

Over the years I’ve had the distinct honor of delivering a few commencement sermons to some great graduates. So I dug down into a dusty bin to find out if any one of those ancient relics holds any water today. I shall share Sierra Nevada College here (abbreviated) and let you be the judge…

For the class of 2006 I have some good news and some bad. The good news is, as Bergson tells us, “Life, in all its color, warmth and complexity, is far greater than any intelligible formulation of it.”

  The bad news is, after today, the word “party” is no longer a verb. You are now a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent. So keep in mind what our friend Mark Twain advocates, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

Yours will be the first generation whose foremost responsibility, whose foremost obligation, will be to stand up in an over-heated environment and shout, “Fire!”

It will take an intellectual process to predict the impact that greenhouse gasses will have on our environment in the year 2100.  You have the intellect to make the predictions and deal with the problems.  And, to facilitate this process, Sierra Nevada College will soon unveil the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences, just behind us here…45,000 square feet of scientific space dedicated to the study of our Alpine ecosystem. 
  I come today equipped to offer our graduates one hundred life lessons, but will spare you, and offer five for your consideration.  

Life lesson #1:  Money, you might be surprised to find out, money is not for throwing from the back of trains.  Save your money.  Don’t gamble.  But if you do gamble…don’t split your tens.  And don’t waste time on Keno, it’s a 17% house-hold.

Life lesson #2: You must travel, far.  St. Augustine tells us, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”  In your travels you will eventually come to appreciate what Mark Russell discovered: “The rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage.”  Always pack a change of underwear in your carry-on.

Life lesson #3: Read good books.  The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.  Today’s literature is mostly about sex and not much about having children, whereas life is the other way around.  And when you consider having children, remember this caveat from Martin Mull: “Having children is like having a bowling alley installed in your head.” 
  For life lesson #4 we can thank Marcus Aurelius: “Waste no time debating what a good man should be…be one.”  And as an addendum to life lesson #4 we can turn to Robert Frost:  “You have freedom when you’re easy in your harness.”

For those who aspire to go into acting, I offer life lesson #5 from George Burns: “Acting is about sincerity.  If you can fake that you’ve got it made.”  George used to call me on my birthday, God rest his beautiful soul. And I asked him the last time I spoke to him, “George, I understand you’re still going out with young women…why!?”  He said, “Because their stories are shorter.”

Yes, on that note, I can hear William Hazlitt, an Essayist from the 1830’s, shouting these words to our graduates of today:  “Look up, laugh loud, talk big, keep the color in your cheek and the fire in your eye, adorn your person, maintain your health, your beauty and your animal spirits.”

Sierra Nevada College class of 2006:  Have a good life – have a good time – and God’s speed…

Audio: https://open.spotify.com/show/7Fhv4PrH1UuwlhbnTT23zO

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