3 Min read
2 Book recs
1 Podcast rec
Wisdom from the college graduate
The cure for resentment and self-abnegation is gratitude. So says Douglas Murray, author and guest on the Good Fellows Podcast.* Murray asked his friend–a headmistress in England–about how she deals with the sense of resentment among youth. She said she encourages students, those who are immigrants, to travel back to their country of origin to meet their first cousins. They come back transformed.
Author J.D. Vance describes the same phenomenon after his time in the U.S. Marines.** Vance gets fit, learns discipline, and has a job. Three things many from his hillbilly, rust-belt home might never experience. Vance knows about suffering, growing up with his mother’s drug addiction, struggling in school, moving from home to home as her partners changed, watching neighbors on the dole. In his memoir, he describes going to war and the people he met. “…as I stood and surveyed the mass of children of a war-torn nation, their school without running water, and the overjoyed boy, I began to appreciate how lucky I was.” He returns home, takes his family out for a meal, pays for his grandma’s perscriptions. He uses the GI Bill to go to college, later applies to Yale law school, becomes an attorney, and defying all the odds he is currently the junior senator of Ohio.
I attended my niece’s commencment ceremony and asked what she learned in college. She summarized the two part answer she had written for her ethics exam, a question about the meaning of life.
- Work hard at a lot of things, otherwise how will you know what you’re good at?
- Reach out to others when things get tough. Check on family and friends, and see how they’re doing. Others go through tough stuff too. And checking in with them will lift you up.
Enjoy spring with its flowers, recitals, and graduations. It’s a time of transition, of new life. And, if I learn anything from Murray, Vance, and my niece, it is to remain open to others: a British headmistress, the veteran, and the recent graduate. Two of my children brought home friends this weekend after Term End Exams were over. Jon– my son’s good friend–is like a member of the family, which means he does the dishes. Serena and Ivan brought lilies and Ivan wasn’t sure about the closed buds. The scent is as sweet as the blooms are beautiful.
Being grateful is the cure for cynicism.
*If you’re not familiar with Stanford University’s think tank, it’s worth checking out one of my favorite podcasts, usually about an hour in length with a new episode every couple weeks. GoodFellows, Conversations from the Hoover Institution, A weekly Hoover Institution broadcast, features senior fellows John Cochrane (economist), Niall Ferguson (historian), and H.R. McMaster (former US Army general and National Security Advisor) discussing the social, economic, and geostrategic ramifications of this changed [post pandemic] world.”
*Douglas Murray is distinguished guest and author of the instant NY Times bestseller, The War on the West.
**JD Vance. Hillbilly Elegy, a Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. A New York Times bestselling memoir and major motion picture directed by Ron Howard. This is an excerpt posted online, What I learned in the Marines Corps. “On our particular mission, senior marines met with local school officials while the rest of us provided security or hung out with the schoolkids, playing soccer and passing out candy and school supplies. One very shy boy approached me and held out his hand. When I gave him a small eraser, his face briefly lit up with joy before he ran away to his family, holding his two- cent prize aloft in triumph. I have never seen such excitement on a child’s face.I don’t believe in epiphanies. I don’t believe in transformative moments, as transformation is harder than a moment. I’ve seen far too many people awash in a genuine desire to change only to lose their mettle when they realized just how difficult change actually is. But that moment, with that boy, was pretty close for me. For my entire life, I’d harbored resentment at the world. I was mad at my mother and father, mad that I rode the bus to school while other kids caught rides with friends, mad that my clothes didn’t come from Abercrombie, mad that my grandfather died, mad that we lived in a small house. That resentment didn’t vanish in an instant, but as I stood and surveyed the mass of children of a war-torn nation, their school without running water, and the overjoyed boy, I began to appreciate how lucky I was: born in the greatest country on earth, every modern convenience at my fingertips, supported by two loving hillbillies, and part of a family that, for all its quirks, loved me unconditionally. At that moment, I resolved to be the type of man who would smile when someone gave him an eraser. I haven’t quite made it there, but without that day in Iraq, I wouldn’t be trying.”