Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Welcome to your life.

 May 13 was the first commencement ceremony I attended as a faculty member. It was so different from the feeling of walking into that arena as a graduate, and in many ways, it was so much better. 

I looked around at all the proud families, and I had a sort of meeting of the minds with a granny on the front row near my seat. I hope I run into that beautiful lady somewhere around town in the future. The rest of her family was occasionally excited, but often seemed bored and tired. She, however, never lost her enthusiasm. She was electrified by it and she became the universal embodiment of a Granny for me. She jumped up and cheered when her grandgirl crossed the stage, and I applauded then, too. :)  I admit I thought of my own grandmothers and how they would have been proud of me* in a similar fashion. 

I also looked around and reveled in a room full of people who were gathered for a purely joyous occasion. There was no mention of politics or sports. The day was simply a celebration, entirely sweet, and as short as they were able to muster. 

Some people spend a lot of time and energy slagging off university education**, but the truth is that it's a necessary system in a modern society. Despite my own frustrations with aspects of university, people DO need to go through a series of tests and trials to prove fitness for work, particularly in professional fields of a highly specialized nature, especially medicine. 

Many people don't understand how singular the American university system is. In other nations at college level, once a student has declared a major, their training becomes exclusively relative to that field, be it law, engineering, medical, etc. However, the American system is a more broad degree, and in other countries, at least until recently AFAIK, American degrees have an added value aspect of being generalist in nature. Prospects for a job who have degrees from American institutions have received education on state, federal, and international government, economics, history, literature, writing, maths and sciences, depending on the degree track of the individual. This should, ideally, produce a more well-rounded individual who can synthesize meaning across a wide variety of data. 

A college degree doesn't make a person intelligent. I know many people with degrees who are book-smart and profoundly unwise. My parents didn't go to college, and they are two of the most brilliant people I've ever met, in addition to being incredibly wise. And they made a wonderful life for our family, and provided a beautiful and safe home for us.  Frankly, I'd take wisdom over book-smart any day of the week. I pray that unwise people figure it out before it's all over, but wisdom is something earned, and often hard-won. It doesn't arrive on any kind of schedule, and sometimes it never comes for some people. 

By no means do I believe that all people to should go to college. There's more than one way to have a great life, and a person can have a glorious and prosperous life without stepping foot onto a college campus. However, I think if a person desires the education, or if they need it for a particular career or certification, it can be the making of the person. 

I'm not going to take a poll, but I hope most professors feel as I do about the privilege of teaching at a university. The commencement ceremony is a tiny thing, but it is profound and wonderful. The 700-odd students who graduated that day represented hundreds of thousands of cumulative hours of study, labor, and anxious hope on the part of the students and their families. It's an incredible achievement for a family, and we live in a most precious and blessed moment that a mere common person like myself can aspire to a college education. It's a big deal. I am honored for my humble role in that journey for so many people. I pray I never become jaded about what an incredible thing that ceremony represents.

*My grandmothers were proud of all their grandkids, and I'm not the first to graduate from college. Also, if they had favorites, I was never aware of it, and I'm not suggesting that they would have valued any of their grand-ducklings as superior to the others. Or at least, if they had favorites, I don't want to know about it!

**On the matter of social engineering and professors who waste precious educational time using the classroom as their personal therapy session or to inculcate impressionable young people to the professor's social/political worldview, I believe there will be a day of accountability for all people, and for those who abuse the privilege of teaching children, there will be Hell to pay. I just do the best I can to prepare them for their own future university and professional careers, because I believe that is why they are paying me. People DO have valid reasons to criticize proselytizing in the classroom, but I pray that type of "teaching" is the exception, rather than the rule. Remember that such professors are merely helped along by the many young folk who have have been lovingly pre-lobotomized by Reddit, Tumblr, TikTok, and the like. It bears repeating: Hell to pay.

Carmina Burana was as wonderful as I expected it to be! Make your own kind of music.

 If you get a chance, go hear Orff's Carmina Burana in person. More importantly, if you have the chance, SING in this. Even if you are nervous auditioning, you can do this, and it's a glorious thing. When your section gets to the stratospheric notes you can't reach, then just move your beak, or sing it down an octave and it'll be fine. Trust me.

That performance at the end of April was a tonic for my soul. It may be simply a harmonic convergence of approaching the end of two full semesters of full-time employment, since I was in school full-time for 9 sometimes difficult/grueling years, but it felt like a cosmic "atta girl" for me. I ran into two of the most esteemed faculty in the lobby before the performance, one of whom is from my department. I asked her at school the following week what she thought of the performance and she said it was the most wonderful symphonic performance she had ever experienced. She confessed to me that she and the other professor had worked in their yards all day and after the concert, they admitted they'd each just wanted to take a shower and get into pajamas, but they both ended up being so happy they came. 

I'm vowing to make it out to more classical music performances. Indeed, I'd like to find a chamber ensemble in which to perform locally, particularly Baroque music, and on period instruments, if possible. I would be keen to sing, but I also could play a flute, recorder, or some other similar wind instrument. I'd prefer not to play a reed instrument, but I could do that in a pinch. Wow. Just realized I'm writing this like an application. Anyway. Yeah, so making music is important. 

I'm ecstatic that an opera has been composed of the glorious "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", which is a book and a French film. I STRONGLY urge you to see the film. Is spectacular, profound, and breathtakingly photographed. Come to that, I need to see it again soon. I also should read the book before the opera. Yes, the world gives us so many opportunities to see performances near and far. 

If you live in a town, find out when the little kids (and big kids!) have their concerts and go see them letting their little lights shine. You'll be best served if you don't indulge the thought of "great music, badly done," but instead see it as a once-in-a-lifetime performance, because every performance is exactly that. No two performances will have the same characteristics, and therein be the magic. <3 See what live music is happening near you. This is the time of year for concerts in the park and such. Make it happen, and I think you'll be richly blessed. 

I just found this marvelous recording of Carmina Burana wherein the chorus, impressively, is entirely off book. Unbelievable. This is a long, complex work, exhausting to sing, and while I know if pressed I could memorize it, but this is an impressive feat. The video says San Francisco symphony chorus, but I don't think that's the group singing here. In any case, this is fantastic. I suspect Seiji Ozawa has a Japanese choir with him. What an excellent performance!