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Commentary: Bowing out with a piece of advice from the underground

“But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the ‘rat race’ – the constant gnawing sense of having had and lost some infinite thing.” -David Foster Wallace, “This is Water” (2005).

I apologize to everyone out there – my readers, my editors, my sworn enemies – for the extra-long quote up there. But I truly believe it is something that needs read, and I recommend everyone take a few minutes out of their day to soak in the late genius-author’s entire commencement speech for Kenyon College, later published as an essay titled “This is Water.”

I don’t have anything truly “newsworthy” to talk about in today’s column, except to say that it is the final episode of ‘Jerry The Fly: Weirdness From Below.’ Most of my target demographic could care less, but I truly believe there are a few of you out there who have found this to be, if nothing else, a funny little experiment.

To those few, I say thank you.

This column began after I asked Alex Antonetz, former arts editor at The Lantern, if I could bend the stiff rules of journalism practiced here at Ohio State, if I could take on something that isn’t done as often as it should be: embarrassing myself professionally, intentionally and in a public fashion – in the name of art.

Art is a difficult concept to tackle, and when you try to mix it in with something as rigid and sterile as modern journalism, it can become a cluster-headache. But those of us with vision, or delusion in my case, must power through to the very end, all the while screaming to the mountains that we deserve more from this life than to be another number, to be more than a unit in a single-file line of cattle waiting to meet our demise in a cruel world.

I am graduating (hopefully) next week and I want to send a message to my fellow graduates, the underclassmen, and perhaps even to those not even connected to the university.

Please, please keep in mind, if nothing else, this one simple thing: reality is subjective. What holds true for you, in your life, might not be how another person views things.

War. Racism. Hatred. Fear. Bullying. Slavery. When we forget we each live in separate worlds, these terrifying things are born. Life is hard enough, fighting to stay positive in the rat-race and the overwhelming demands of existence, without adding to each other’s miseries.

Maybe, in this special time in your life, when all of your hard work and your privileges pay off in the form of a degree (or in a summer vacation, or in a well-earned paycheck), remember how privileged you are. And maybe consider not gay-bashing, or dropping a racial slur for a cheap laugh, or considering yourself above the folks who ask you for a dime on the street and don’t wear Hollister polos.

Perhaps if we each took the time to remember our fellow humans, perhaps if we didn’t shrug off the suffering of a brother or sister, perhaps if we just took a moment to realize how truly blessed we are, we can begin to pay back what has been given to us.

Appreciate your reality and respect others’ realities. Please.

“None of this is about morality, or religion, or dogma, or big fancy questions of life after death. The capital-T Truth is about life before death. It is about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head. It is about simple awareness – awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us,” Wallace said.

Have a great life, class of 2012, and future graduates. But most of all, thank you, my fellow human beings. All of you.

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