Delight Springs

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Unsolicited advice

What's some good unsolicited wisdom, to send off a college freshman and aspiring writer? Well, there's this.

“Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended... 
That's George Saunders's Advice to Graduates. Works for matriculating freshpersons too, with so many big questions just before them.

And there's this:
What makes a writer great? The same thing that makes a human great: Curiosity without ego, and generosity of spirit. No amount of talent is worth anything without kindness. Maria Popova
Kurt Vonnegut said the same thing: be kind. Saw it on a bumper sticker yesterday too. Then saw (via the Friendly Atheist) that some benighted Christians actually oppose kindness, on the very grounds that recommend it to me: "To make kindness into an ultimate virtue is to insist that our most important moral obligations are those we owe to our fellow human beings." Yes, that's it exactly.  

Or as William James put it,
Whether a God exist, or whether no God exist, in yon blue heaven above us bent, we form at any rate an ethical republic here below. And the first reflection which this leads to is that ethics have as genuine and real a foothold in a universe where the highest consciousness is human, as in a universe where there is a God as well. "The religion of humanity" affords a basis for ethics as well as theism does.
As well as? No, better than. By far, and without confusion as to where our most urgent obligations lie. So again, this time with Vonnegut's emphatic (yet still smiling) punctuation: "you've got to be kind, dammit!"

And, does it also not go without saying? Do your best. Call/text/write/visit when you can. Learn. Grow. Live. Be happy.  

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