Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ancient Wisdom

However, the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person’s idea of success, so high have you already flown academically.

About a week ago, famed British author J.K. Rowling gave a commencement address at Harvard University where she shared her own humbling experiences on failure and framed the concept of imagination as a powerful tool to influence reality.

While some thought that Rowling wasn't worthy of the honour of giving the commencement address, Rowling's address is perhaps a better one than Oprah Winfrey's at Stanford. Both gave moving anecdotes and pressed into the graduates the matter of failure and finding happiness, but Rowling's account was more compelling as she balanced candour with grace and formality.

To that end, Rowling also dished out valuable advice about life:
Given a time machine or a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone’s total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.

She ended her speech with an overarching quote on life from the Roman philosopher Seneca:
As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.

Wisdom, no matter how ancient, is never late.

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