Thursday, 11 June 2015

Graduation Meditation

I made this fistful of fudos for a friend's daughter who just graduated from high school. Graduation is an odd rite; we tell young people their lives have changed overnight, utterly and irreversibly, and encourage them, by our silence if nothing else, to party like all their problems are over.

We really don't do this in any other context. We celebrate New Year's, we celebrate weddings, we even celebrate graduation from other institutions, but we never say "all is attained!" This already bothered me when I graduated. I get it that we want to emphasise the accomplishment and celebrate the opportunities. I'm for that. But "free at last!" is simply – maybe even tragically – a lie. (As I put it myself all those years ago, the truth is more like: "Responsible at last". But I guess that doesn't look as festive on a cake.)

And now that I'm old, I've noticed something even more sinister: the near-universal insistence of grups that a person knows nothing at 18. Yet people that age are in fact not children. (Neither are 16-year-olds, or even 14-year-olds for that matter, but that's another rant.) I don't know if we do this because it makes us feel inadequate to see these dynamic young adults gallivanting about, or because we still have a retinal image of them in diapers, or maybe we just like wielding power over others. But 18 is grown-up. Newly grown-up, sure. Still in need of counsel, of course. But grown-up. (And let's be honest, homies: that second one never changes.)

Therefore, by way of conceding to this young lady some of the power that's hers by right, I included the following note:

At your age there are a lot of older people telling you that you haven't had any life experience, and therefore you have no wisdom. Now that I'm old, I can tell you that 18 is in fact not as much as 50. (And I'm beginning to suspect there may be numbers even larger than that.) But 18 is still a lot – much more than old people think. (Or maybe just more than they remember; the years take things away, too.) Fact is, I had wisdom at 18 that I've since lost, somewhere along the way.
So here are 18 fudos, one for each year of wisdom you've accrued. Hang them in places that are special to you, or will become special to you later; mark your own trail, blaze it for others who follow; give some to friends and strangers. They're yours to do what you want with.
Remember that the more abused the ring, the more power it has. Just like people. Some of these have added meaning as well. The diamond one recalls the Diamond Sutra. The square one proclaims the Four Noble Truths. The Chinese coin with cord in the colours of the Three Bardos of Death is a cemetery fudo. And the one with the broken ring and four Franciscan knots is my own proprietary design. All fudos say, "The world is full of bastards, but an army of compassionate seekers has your back." Mine adds: "… and they'll have to get through me first."
All peace and good fortune to you, young sister. No time for small minds; eyes on the prize.
Eighteen is enough.
PS: And if anybody still tries to tell you it's not, tell them you won't hear until they've made 18 fudos. That crap takes forever.

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