Going to Canobie Lake is always the turning point of the year for me. It is like some primal signal that It is time to turn away from the school year and towards the future. Obviously, it is my hope that you learned some useful skills this year, but, more importantly, I hope that you have gained a deeper sense of the power and importance of words–and that you will tap into that power in whatever way you need or want over the course of your life. I want you to know that I am always around as another set of eyes for anything you write over these eight or ten more years of school–and many more of simply life–that you have ahead of you. Sometimes, it is simply good to hear from you. This year, this is the last you will hear from me. My last echo….
Life will change you, and you will change your life. Be willing to change. Recently, I heard from an old student who hated whenever I assigned a “creative” writing assignment. Recently, he won one of The Groton School’s Creative Writing Awards. Another student who started playing guitar in the shop–and who refused to sing a single word–just released an impressive debut CD of original music. The point is: don’t be limited by what you feel you are today. Though you might only see a small stone; there is always a universe of possibilities! You just need to be brave enough to cross the threshold; you have to accept that no songs will be sung about you if you avoid the pain and suffering and struggle of the heroic cycle, which is part and parcel of every life lived to the fullest.
Your life is the epic poem you are about to live, so live! Don’t be remembered as a nameless suitor, or even a vain and impetuous god: be remembered as a man (because that is what you are) who responds to the stirrings within yourself and who recognizes these stirrings as the wisdom of Mentes and who acts as if guided by the power of bright-eyed Athena. This is the power that entwined and empowered the actions of Odysseus, Telemachus, and Paul. Trusting in our own individual wisdom is the power that sustains greatness.
Friendship is a metaphor for caring, persistence, constancy, and courage. Become that metaphor and you will never feel or be alone. Be like the kings and swineherds of The Odyssey and welcome strangers as the friends they should be, for friends will always be true and faithful even when society is not. Be willing to carry or be carried across and through the battles of life. Don’t leave these friends you have made; don’t lose touch with the cast of round and flat characters who make up your life today or you will become that flat character remembered only as a fleeting scene or footnote buried in the plot of a dull and uninspired story.
Your life is a young poem, and it is the soil upon which your future will grow. Cultivate your mind as you would the garden you need to survive. Remember that poetry is the greatest fruit of your being. Poetry is not always a pile of written words; it is the ability to see like Basho. Life is never a single image. It is an image and an action given new meaning by the twists and turns of how we take it and act upon it; it is the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated scenes that we pair together to create deeper meaning and purpose and sustenance.
Be prepared to sit and let the moon reflect off of you. Nature is the greatest teacher and the only one who is always there for you and who is always waiting. Though you can’t enter the same river twice, you can always sit on the banks and be restored–but it will never happen unless you walk to the river–wherever and whatever that river happens to be. The classroom is only the finger pointing at the moon–not the moon itself.
Above all remember. Remember everything. Memories and thoughts only truly exist when put into words, so craft carefully and treasure dearly the words you create.
Nothing gold can stay. Give a damn.
Thanks for everything and good luck!