So my wife’s friend e-mailed her to see if I could help her come up with a quote to go with her son’s senior page ad she purchased (along with the rest of the parents of the school’s 500 or so seniors) to be published in the year book. (I apparently occupy some niche among her friends as the wise, literary, if damn near crazy–perhaps it’s the same thing–husband). Purchasing an ad in the yearbook for the graduating senior is apparently a rite of passage. For the parents, not the senior. It befuddles me how parents put so much stock in celebrating such an insignificant event as high school graduation. Of course, high school graduation represents the culmination of the years of effort put into raising a kid to express as an adult all those same idiosyncracies as the parents. Kids are rarely reared for what’s best for them. It’s what’s best for the parent. And parents want people to know how important and valuable they are, explaining the purchase of yearbook ads.
So, when the wife forwarded the e-mail, I started digging around in my noggin. Two observations on high school came immediately to mind. The first was from the John Mayer tune, “No Such Thing”:
“Welcome to the real world”, she said to me
Take a seat
Take your life
Plot it out in black and white
Well I never lived the dreams of the prom kings
And the drama queens
I’d like to think the best of me
Is still hiding
Up my sleeve
They love to tell you
Stay inside the lines
But something’s better
On the other side
I wanna run through the halls of my high school
I wanna scream at the
Top of my lungs
I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world
Just a lie you’ve got to rise above
Then there was this classic, from Simon and Garfunkel’s, “Kodachrome”
When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I can think at all.
But my lack of education hasn’t hurt me none. I can read the writing on the wall.
After I sent them, she replied that they were of no use, implying that this was serious stuff, dammit. So I sent her these, from Mark Twain, for whom everyone has great respect as an icon of American seriousness:
Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.
– Mark Twain’s Notebook, 1898
In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then He made school boards.
– Following the Equator, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar
She didn’t appreciate my humor, asking me whether I was having fun. I replied that, indeed, I was. But if she’d give me some guidance as to what she wanted, I’d try to do better. She said her son goes around quoting lines from the movie “Forrest Gump”. Oh, I thought, well that’s certainly some serious stuff. So I got some quotes, from a website devoted specifically to the task.
~ That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I’d run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I’d just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I’d just run across the great state of Alabama. And that’s what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I’d gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I’d gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going. When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go… you know… I went.~Forrest Gump
Her son ran cross-country, so I thought that might work. She said no. Too long, and besides, where’s the profound wisdom? So I looked up some profundity on another website whose only purpose is providing profundity through the observations of famous people. The site, appropriately enough, is called, “Famous Quotes”. I found this from John Wooden:
Success is peace of mind, a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming, and not just in a physical way: seek ye first the kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be yours as well.
I kind of agree–that success indeed is peace of mind. But how can anyone ever know that they did their best to become the best they are capable of becoming? So how does anyone ever really succeed? Unless of course, your basketball team manages to beat all the other basketball teams against whom your team competes, for something like a gazillion years or so? Then you have evidence of success. But what of it? Success at putting a sphere into a hoop and preventing another team from doing the same? Why should success at such a thing even matter? How does it help anything or anyone? What does it prove? Is basketball a metaphor for life, or is life a metaphor for basketball, as Lakers/Bulls coach Phil Jackson famously asserted? Or is life a game–just like basketball–without anything much in the way of deeper meaning other than who wins and loses? Well anyway, I thought this had to be profound enough to get past her serious face, and it seemed to work. But I sent along one more quote of John Mayer’s that I found, incredibly enough, at the same Famous Quotes site:
High School is like a spork: it’s a crappy spoon and a crappy fork, so in the end it’s just plain useless.
Now, that’s what I’d have wanted my high school yearbook ad to have said, had my parents been so obligated to buy one back in my day. Even my wife’s friend acknowledged that she wished she could put it on her son’s ad. I finally got an electronic smile out of the stern Presbyterian.
Mayer’s right. High school was useless, an utter waste of time. Still is, so far as I can tell from what my eleventh-grade son tells me. The only celebrating that should be done about a kid’s completion of high school is that finally his education can start. So long as he doesn’t go to college.