Monday, December 04, 2006

This may have been a Commencement Speech by Tom Robbins

I am often asked whether there is life after death. Certainly
there is. There is also death after life, and life before death,
and death before life. It goes on forever. There is just no stopping
it.

You will live forever, and die forever. In fact, you already have.
As for Heaven and Hell, they are right here on Earth, and it is
up to each of you in which you choose to reside. To put it simply,
Heaven is living in your dreams and Hell is living in your fears.

In the traditional image where Hell is down and Heaven is up,
one escapes from hell by digging a hole in the ceiling. Though in
an age of downers and uppers down and up no longer make sense, it is
still possible to think of in and out. Think of Hell as in and
Heaven as out. To get out of Hell, expand your soul until it is
pushing on all the walls from the inside all the way around. If you
just maintain a steady pressure, your soul will gradually filter out
into limitless Heaven beyond.

One problem with the notion of Heaven and Hell, however, is that,
although they are exact opposites, an astonishing number of people
seem to be confused about which is which. For example, all over the
United States on this very evening, commencement speakers are
standing before audiences not greatly unlike yourself, describing
Hell as if they were describing Heaven.

Their speakers are saying things such as, "Graduating Seniors,
you have reached the golden threshold of maturity; it is time now to
go out into the world and take up the challenge of life, time to
face your hallowed responsiblity."

And if that isn't one hell of a note, it is certainly one note
of Hell.

When I hear the word maturity spoken with such solemn awe, I
don't know whether to laugh or to get sick. There circulates a
common myth that once one becomes an adult, one suddenly and
magically gets it altogether and if I may use the vernacular, discovers where it's
at.

ha ha. The sad funny truth is adults are nothing but tall children
who have forgotten how to play.

When people tell you to "grow up" they mean approximately the same
thing as when they say "shut up." By "shut up" they mean stop
talking. By "grow up" they mean stop growing.

Because as long as you keep growing, you keep changing- and a
person who is changing is unpredictable, impossible to pigeon hole,
and difficult to control. The growing person is not an easy target
for those guys in slick suits who want you to turn over your soul
over to Christ, your heart to America, your butt to Seattle first
National Bank and your armpits to extra crispy Right Guard.

No, the growing person is not an ideal consumer, which means in
more realistic terms, he or she is not an easy slave. Worse yet, if
he or she continues to grow, grows far enough or long enough, he or
she may get too close to the universal mysteries, the nature of
which the Navy and the Dutch reform Church do not encourage us to ponder.
The growing person is an uncomfortable reminder of the greater human
potential that each of us might realize if we had the guts.

So society wants you to grow up. To reach a safe, predictable
plateau and root there. To muzzle your throb, to lower the volume
on the singing in your blood. Capers all cut, sky finally larked,
surprises known, SETTLE DOWN- settle, like the sand in the bottom of
an hour glass, like a coffin six months into the ground. ACT YOUR
AGE, which means act their age, and that has from the moment they
stopped growing, always been old.

Growing up is a trap.

As for responsibility, I am forced to ask, "Responsibility to
what?" To our fellow man? Two weeks ago, the newspapers reported
that a federal court had ruled that when a person's brain stops
functioning, that person is legally dead, even though his or her
heart may continue to beat. That means that 80% of the population
of Earth is legally dead. Must we be responsible to corpes?

No, you have no responsibility except to be yourself to the
fullest limit of yourself, and to find out who you are. Or perhaps,
I should say to remember who you are. Because deep down, in the
secret velvet of your heart, far beyond your name and address, each
of you knows who you really are. And that being, who is the true
you,cannot help but behave graciously to all other beings- because
it is all other beings.

Yet, we are consistently reminded of our
own..."responsibility."
Responsibility means obey orders, without question, don't rock the
boat, and for God's sake, get a job. (Get a job. Sha na na na)

Thats the scary the one. Get a job. It is said as if it were a
holy and ancient and inviolable law of nature. But the fact is although
cultural man has been on Earth some 2 million years, the very
concept of jobs is only about 500 years old. A drop in the bucket, to coin
a phrase. And with the advent of electronic cybernetic automated
technology, jobs are on the way out again. Jobs were just a flash
in the pan, a passing fancy. There is no realistic relationship
between jobs and work-work being defined as simply one of the more serious
aspects of play- any more than there is a realistic relationship
between jobs and eating. It is curious how many people believe if
it weren't for jobs they couldn't eat. As if it weren't for Boeing,
their jaws wouldn't chew, if it weren't for the Navy their bowels
wouldn't move and if it weren't for the Weyerhauser that great
destroyer of plants- plants wouldn't grow. Technocratic assumptions
about the identity of man, society, and nature have warped our
experience at its source and obscured the basic natural sense of
things. Rabbits don't have jobs. When was the last time you heard
of a rabbit starving to death?

Ah, but we must be responsible, and if we are, we are rewarded with
the White man's logical equivalent of looting: a steady job, secure
income, easy credit, free access to all the local emporiums
and a home of your own to pile the merchandise in! And so what if
there is no magic in your life, no wonder, no amazement, no
playfulness, no peace of mind, no sense of unity with the Universe,
no giggling joy, no burning passion, no deep understanding, no
overwhelming love? At least your ego has the satisfaction of
knowing you are a responsible citizen.

Responsibility is a trap.

As a matter of fact, the entire system into which you were born
and which now, upon completion of high (high?) school you must
perhaps face more directly, is a system designed to trap you- and
manipulate you as a co-operating slave, a system designed to steep
you in Hell.

Hell is living in your fears, and it is through fear, both
subtle and overt, that the system traps you. Fear of failure, fear
of social rejection, fear of poverty, fear of punishment, fear of
death.

For example, we are taught to fear something called Communism, and
millions of Americans go to bed every night wondering if Mao Tse
Tung is under their bed. Conversely, on the other side of the world
millions of Russians and Chinese go to bed wondering if Henry
Kissenger is under their bed. Our totalitarian government uses the
hoax of the threat of Communism to control and enslave us, just as
the totalitarian Communist governments use the hoax of the threat of
capitalism to control and enslave their people. It's an extremely
old and obviously effective trick.

You see, the powers behind Communism and the powers behind
Capitalism are virtually the same people. We might also include the
powers behind the Vatican and the powers behind Islam. Their main
function is to mystify the popular mind by creating illusions of
omnipotence and omniscience with which to command docility from
their subjects, although it does not require much thorough investigation
to discover that few of the peoples of this world are happy, healthy,
or fulfilled.
But never mind. There are ways out of the trap, ways, as I
earlier suggested out of Hell.

The only advice I have for you tonight is not to actively resist or
fight the System, because active protest and resistence merely
entangle you in the System.
Instead, ignore it, walk away from it, turn your backs on it,
laugh at it. Don't be outraged, be outrageous! Never be stupid
enough to respect authority unless that authority first proves
itself respectable. And, unfortunately, there is no officially sanctioned
authority today, from the President of the United States down to the
cop on the beat, that has earned the right to your respect.
So, be your own authority, lead yourselves. Remember the ways
and means of the Ancient Yogi masters, Pied Pipers, cloud walkers
and medicine men. Get in harmony with nature. Listent to the loony
rhythms of your blood. Look for beauty and poetry in everything in
life. Let there be no moon that does not know you, no spring that
does not lick you with its tounges. Refuse to play it safe, for it
is from the wavering edge of ridk that the sweetest honey of freedom
drips. Live dangerously, live lovingly. Believe in magic. Nourish
your imagination. Use your head, even if it means going out of your
mind. Learn, like the lemon and the tomato learned, the laws of the
sun. Become aware, like the jungle became aware, of your own
perfume.
Remember that life is much too serious to take seriously- to never
forget how to play.
In times of doubt and chaos, it has been the duty of superior
persons- artists, poets, scientists, clowns, and philosophers
(certainly not statesmen or military heros) to create order in the
psychic vibrations of their fellow man. Due in times such as ours,
times that are too carefully ordered, too strictly organized, too
expertly managed, thoroughly programmed and craftily planned, times
in which too few control too many, it is the duty of all feeling,
thinking, humanitarian people to toss their favorite monkey wrenches
into the machinery. On second thought, you do have some
responsibility to your fellow man. To relieve the repression of the
human spirit, it is your sacred duty ot screw things up royally.
Looking at you tonight, I am sure you will do just fine.
Let me wrap this up with a few short questions I am often
asked.
A difficult question.
1. Will we be eaten by bugs and worms? We ought to be. We
have eaten, and we ought to be eaten. This is justice and their is
no stopping it. If you have your body burned, starving the Earth to
glorify a memory you are asking for trouble.
2. Does your soul fly out of your body the moment that you die?
No, this is a foolish superstition. Your soul is constantly
flying out of your body in just the same way that energy is
constantly flying out of the sun. At the monent your body dies, the
soul stops flying out.
3. Is Jesus coming back?
Yes, all the time. And so are you. All souls echo forever
throughout the universe.
I hope you have a wonderful trip.

Does anyone have any details about this? If you know anything about it, please leave a comment. Even if it isn't Tom Robbins, it's still interesting.

3 comments:

annie said...

hello, i found your site because i was looking for this. i found a variation of it on this site here attributing it to one brad blaton. the link suggests it comes from a book in 1996 but i know this isn't true because i have a copy of this in my drawer i have been storing since at least the early seventies. i don't recall how it first came into my possession but it was way before the days of home computers. my copy is old and weathered. my understanding of this speech is that it was delivered by tom robbins at his high school/commencement speech.

Anonymous said...

Brad Blanton wrote the book Practicing Radical Honesty.
In the begining of the book he quotes this speach with the permission of the author.

Tione Woolsyzygy said...

I received this in an email from a dear friend long ago. It was a forward of a forward, but the original header was still intact. It said that it was from Tom Robbins speaking to a graduating class some time in the 90s. I have since read many of his novels and can easily believe that he would say something like this. Nothing official, but I figured a vote for Tom couldn't hurt.