Cheever, my mortal god, had it right. In his story A Vision of the World, a man completely at sea, vexed by the unfocussed oddness of life, awakens in the middle of the night to the murmur of rainfall. He sits up in bed and drops anchor by proclaiming to the darkened room: “Valor! Love! Virtue! Compassion! Splendor! Kindness! Wisdom! Beauty!”
Sam graduated h.s. two nights ago. Cheever’s declaration (and credo) seems the very thing the assembled crowd should have been barking in unison, intermingled with the air horns, flatulent plastic trumpets, and odd bursts of extremely localized confetti. All the shiniest qualities of humanity that inform our apprehension of the Wonder were contained in the convocation of jittery, mostly awkward teens awaiting advancement in ill-fitting ceremonial baggies and aerodynamically flingable mortarboards, pals and families rustling and yelling in the stands and grinning like idiots. Like a Noah’s Ark procession the graduating class came down the hill 2 by 2, boy-girl, some of them waving triumphantly to the crowd like newly minted celebrities (many of these kids wore Ray-Bans), some, like Sam, skulking self-consciously. Some kids looked downright disgusted to be there – the Establishment wringing one last choreographed Subservience Ritual out of them before kicking them down the road to the obligatory Greater Things. We’ve raised Sam to be an aware guy with a sense of the weirdness of the ordinary, and his self-consciousness on that count looked to be operating at full throttle as he took his seat on the decorated football field among fake potted plants and looked around with annoyed wonder. When he received his (empty) diploma (slipcover) and shook the principal’s hand he ducked his head in thanks. Then increasingly aware of the faint ridiculousness of the scene he crowd-consciously marched to the photographer station nearby, enacting rather than Being, arms rising and falling, elbows levering outward; a chorus dancer crossing a stage.
To what are the kids advancing? Doesn’t matter. The celebration and hand wringing and hugging are an acknowledgement of forward Newtonian Motion. The kids are up and out and Destiny hovers like an angel of rough mercy. Decision/Indecision await, the spice of life. Love you, Sam. When I drove over the rise and saw you standing in front of the condo with your girlfriend, in your cap and gown, my heart hoisted itself into my throat. When we parted at the stadium so I could take my seat with Judie and Stella and our gathered friends, at my prompting you gave me an initially unyielding but quickly warming hug, and something melted. This is an old story repeated millions of times, thank g*d.
Sam. Goodbye goodbye goodbye goodbye goodbye! See you tomorrow.