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Matriculation Ceremony 2018

Message to the Class of 2022 by Dr. Stuart Grauer, September 11, 2018

[A speech with references from Blumenkranz (Coming of Age the Rite Way), Palmer (The Active Life), The Knights of the Round Table, Joseph Campbell (Finding Joe), Antonio Machado, Rumi, Nietzsche and others]

The Grauer School's Matriculating class of 2022 - September 11, 2018

The wonderful Joseph Campbell studied youths coming of age all over the world, and he would describe their story, which is your story, in three parts:

  1. Departureyou leave on an adventure: you leave childhood and middle school
  2. Initiation—you must get through something, passages, doors, challenges, courses, parents, teachers, mean people—you are put to a test!
  3. Return—you come back, but you have gone through the trials and succeeded, come back as your truer, fuller self.

Campbell said, "I don't believe people are looking for meaning to life, they just want to experience being alive." We want that experience for our students, as well, and so I want you to understand what Campbell meant.

"Being Alive"

How alive are you? Are you in total bliss? If you wanted to be, how would you go about that? And what about school, does that help you feel more alive? Every teacher in our school deeply wants this for you, we want you to find your true bliss, and we never want to just cover it over with a lot of requirements and expectations. Today I am going to help you understand Campbell's journey a little better.

9th grade students performing a song at their Matriculation Ceremony - September 11, 2018

Part 1. Departure

Teachers for generations have told of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, the legend of the Holy Grail. How many of you know it? It goes something like this:

King Arthur and the Knights are sitting there at the Round Table. King Arthur stands up and says, "Okay! Before we eat our meal and drink our mead, who's had an adventure this morning?"

Matriculates: I hope your teachers will ask you this question. Have any of you had an adventure this morning? None of the Knights of the Round Table had. They all just sat there.

So King Arthur says, "Well, until we have an adventure, we can't sit down to our meal."

The knights are all thinking, now what kind of adventure could we have? What are we going to do so we can eat? And then the Holy Grail image appears, just an image, floating there over the table, beckoning them all on a quest. They decide, all right then, we're going to set out in search of the Holy Grail. They get onto their valiant steeds and tsch-tsch-tsch-tsch plod down to the forest, conveniently nearby, which just happens to be called the Forest of Discovery. Okay, it was really called the Forest of Adventure, but that's pretty close.

Interestingly, in this story of the Holy Grail, although you set out on a quest—you know, these valiant quests, with a big horse, a big sword, and everything—you do not find the Grail, it finds you. It's an irony: to find it, you have to stop your seeking, to stop running around, and come back to what is going on right here, in your heart, because the path, the Holy Grail, the Forest of Adventure, is not something anyone can really show you—they can only encourage you and not get in your way with lot of demands and expectations. The path does not turn out to be one that Arthur, or parents, or colleges are pointing to at all. The path is not like someone is mowing a path in the lawn and all we need to do is walk behind the mower and we'll get to something holy. That would not be YOUR path. So ...

So the knights arrive at the outskirts of the forest, where they realize that there are two possibilities. At least two! Either they all enter the forest together, in search of the Holy Grail, right where everyone else always enters. Or, they enter the forest separately.

Bear in mind that up to this point they had traveled together to get to the Forest of Adventure, sort of like a middle school, on the way to high school. When they got to the Forest of Adventure, they felt, well, it would be a shame for us all to go down that very clear path through the forest, but rather each Knight should enter at a place of his own choosing, a place that they were somehow drawn to. Only then would it be an adventure. This, students, is part 1, departure.

Jenna C. '22 receiving her Matriculation gift - September 11, 2018

Part 2. Initiation

So, students: you have departed. You have found your own entry into the forest, and you are entering the thick of it. Here we all are. The Forest of Adventure. The start of the journey, the journey of opening your heart, of finding your bliss, of being open to what you discover. The journey of high school, the coming of age.

Most of the messages we get tell us to get back to the same trailhead as everyone else; to follow, to be meek, stay on the trail, avoid the challenges, the fears; but the spark lies in taking on worthy challenge... trying a few things a bit off the marked trail.

So many people act like they are hypnotized to be consumers, to be perfect students, to go to the college that you brag most about, to join the team because everyone else is on it, to check your snapchat every 20 minutes, to seek comfort first, to hide in the screen, to follow.

For many among us, the goal seems to be to be entertained. To sit back and be consumers.

Or seek money.

Or seek praise from others even before knowing what you want.

Someone says or does the wrong thing to you. You feel pain. Okay. Are you now a victim, at the mercy of others? Or is this pain or discouragement really life asking you a question: What am I made of? Will I write my own story, or will someone else write it for me?

I love what the poet Antonio Machado, wrote, "Traveler, your footprints are the only road, nothing else. Traveler, there is no road. you make your own path as you walk. As you walk, you make your own road." Wanderers, the path is made by walking.

It sounds so beautiful!" Wanderers, you make your own road!" Beautiful. But what the poet leaves out is that your ankles could swell up and your nose is sniveling; you're sweating, and you are so tired your feet aren't landing solid and you twisted an ankle, and your inner voices are telling you the thing you're doing is stupid, or that someone else is going to bail you out of this situation, or fix everything for you, or that this is not fair. And you are dehydrated, and now you think of an excuse that you could use to bail out of this all, and you're upset about something mean or wrong someone said. There is a name for this: Baggage.

Learning by discovery means courage; you shed your baggage and discouragement like an old snake's skin. You keep going.

Oliver S. '22 receives his Matriculation gift - September 11, 2018

The philosopher Nietzsche wrote "The snake that cannot shed its skin must perish"— You shed your skin, and what's left: your deeper self. Matriculation into high school and young adulthood means Transformation. Not to another self, but to: Your deeper self. But what if that's embarrassing or scary.

"Rumi, great mystical poet, 12th century, said: "I want to sing like birds sing, not worrying who listens or what they think." That is courage.

Which leads me to my final point, a little clarification about this word, this idea, courage. If you study heroes in practically every great story ever told, Courage is not a lack of fear. Courageous people know fear. Heroes deal with fearful things their whole life. And I hope you will, so you can be heroes. Courage is not lack of fear. Courage is dealing well with the fear we all have. Courage is getting up and pressing on. You get beat, but you pick up and keep going, making that path.

As the myths tell us: The dragon you slay is your own self. That is the initiation, and then you are ready to return, stronger, more alive. The great poet Alfred Lord Tennyson in his poem "Sir Galahad" describes it this way:

My good blade carves the casques of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.

Part 3. The Return

Parents who are here, thank you for the support at this time. There are historic rites of passage ways in many cultures honoring this process for parents. Once upon a time parents, too, were young and filled with aspirations and dreams, and now we are elders observing our children enter the passages. But the return for us does not mean we find a path for our children—instead, we assess once again how we have achieved our own dreams. This is what our children need from us.

Dreams are made of possibility that can be exciting or frightening. My own dreams were not much more than emptiness to be filled in, and as vividly as possible. I'm still working on that. In some cultures, the passages of our children are the times to reflect on our own ancestors and what they have meant for us. When we ask ourselves: What is it that we ourselves carry on, we twice honor our children's growing independence.

Julian I. '22 receives his Matriculation gift - September 11, 2018

Thank you, parents. As a school with a treasured heritage, we share traditions, commitments, and practices with you in raising beautiful young adults. It takes a village to create conditions for health and joy. Matriculates, please find a way to thank your parents.

Congratulations to our freshmen students. There is a storyteller inside you each, taking notes every day... what will that storyteller write over the next four years?

The grail is a metaphor I love because it has always been an object of mystery and fascination. In four short years, you will return to present that story at the other end of this passage, to drink from the grail you find. Luckily, it's already inside you and you just need to let it clarify over time. We will hear you telling your story at our senior thesis presentations in May of 2022. This is what Joseph Campbell called "the return"—The irony of the return is that when you finally make that return, that's how you'll know you are ready to leave. Matriculates, welcome to high school. Be good to yourselves, by all means. Thank you.

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