An Invitation to Speak
October 7, 2009
I have been invited to speak at a highly regarded elite university in northern New Jersey. The school has been apparently eager to have me talk to their political science class. Because of my friendship with the father of one of the students who attends that school and is in that class, I said, yes, I would be a guest lecturer.
So, tomorrow I will find myself being driven up to Madison, New Jersey, to the very attractive campus of higher learning and will embark on doing something I enjoy doing . . . once I start doing it . . . and enjoy it even more when I am finished.
But, I must tell you right now I am figuratively hitting myself in the head and saying, “What did I get myself into?” If all this sounds bizarre, it is because it is bizarre. I don’t really believe in much any more. I once could give a great inspirational speech and have done so many times in the past.
I was able to do that because I was just as pretentious and just as phony as anyone else. I enjoyed doing that, not because I wanted to be phony or pretentious, but because I wanted to feel a sense of glorification. I wanted the sense of power that comes from standing in front of a group of people and know that most, if not all of them, think, “Hey this guy behind the lectern must really know a lot. Boy! He speaks so well, and he is even funny sometimes when he is not being profound and wise and inspiring.”
All these thoughts are running through my mind right now. What right do I have to tell them what they should do with their lives? What right do I have to inflict on them a cynicism that I have now, but didn’t have when I was their age?
If anything, I was the quintessential idealist. Some, especially my Josephine, actually called me a Pollyanna. But, if one lives long enough, and they pay attention to what is going on in this nation . . . indeed in this world, they will succumb to the open jaws of cynicism.
I can only be forced to think of philosopher Jean Paul Sartre’s legacy to those of us who have this jaundiced view of life. Sartre said, “What is life, but an unnecessary interruption to pleasant nonexistence?”
How would anyone know what is pleasant if they don’t exist? How could any emotion have any meaning to someone not yet born or no longer living? Monsieur Sartre, you only asked that question because you, too, had surrendered to cynicism.
Wouldn’t it be better if we said, “I know life is tough. I know those who don’t deserve the good luck they seem to have make us resentful and jealous, but instead of resenting them, pray for them.”
It might not do them any good, but it might do you some good.