Sunday, June 3, 2012

"May you be safe in storm."

I "broke into" a local college graduation ceremony to see Robert Krulwich's commencement speech. Not really appropriate daddy behavior but they weren't exactly taking tickets.

Mr. Krulwich is, of course, known for accomplishments in journalism, television, radio, and, by his own accord, offering Arthur Miller financial advise while urinating into the neighboring urinal. But, what I love Mr. Krulwich for most is his co-hosting role on Radiolab, a National Public Radio program and podcast. I've drawn on this program for inspiration on several short stories and felt that I couldn't pass this opportunity to see the man behind the voice.

His speech was nothing short of compelling. He spoke of designing and redesigning who we are or who we think we are or who will think we'll be so that who we'll be becomes who we hope we'll be. He said that this endeavor of determining who we are as individuals, though we think it's a "singular" struggle, is really a pluralized effort. He spoke of the people who say, "Why not?" instead of, "Yes, but..." He told witty anecdotes and pithy universalities.

But, the comment that most stood out in this speech was rather tangental to his theme. He made mention of the families of the graduates, the parents who would say only of the graduates hopes and dreams, "May you be safe in storm."

In the interest of full disclosure, that I did too many things I shouldn't have done when I was fourteen may have caused me to confuse pronouns...the actual quote may have been "May they always be safe in storm." He was, after all, speaking in third person of multiple people.

Regardless, I prefer "you" for a specific reason: I am a father.

I love being a father. I love being a husband, too. I worry about them often, though my daughters are only one and three. I worry about the future my wife and I will lead them to. I worry that I will lead them to worry too much, themselves.

It is very Jewish of me, to always worry of the next calamity, suffering from what Sarah Silverman diagnoses (tweeted) as "nervous diarrhea." I suppose that is part of the condition of my heritage. I am definitely a "Yes, but..." person. I think plans. I think logistics. I think too much.

I think, "Yes, but they might get hurt." I think, "Yes, but they might get sick." I think, "Yes, but it might be cancer."

However, Mr. Krulwich, you are right. We must confront our individual design repeatedly, as we redesign our individual. We must face worry and threat. At times, when we say, "Yes, but..." we should remember that it's okay to say, "Why not?"

And, if change is the only storm they face, I wish for my girls, "May you be safe in storm."

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