In my younger and more inexperienced years, my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
"Whenever you feel like criticizing anything," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't the fortitude to sit through it unless you're going to be funny."
I tend to feel this is good advice. Nobody wants to listen to some west egghead blather about what they don't like albumin day. But if you can tell just a few good yolks, people will want to listen to your story.
Technically speaking, I haven't seen the new Great Gatsby movie. But I have played the Great Gatsby video game. Besides, I don't need to see the movie to understand how a society of well-dressed individuals inflated with their own self-importance attend unnecessarily lavish parties. I've been to weddings, and just this past weekend, a college
The thing about graduations is that while any graduate does deserve credit for the perseverance required to attain a degree, I tend to find that most of the ceremony is unnecessarily pompous. So much so, in fact, that pomp is one of the two main ingredients of a graduation, the other being circumstance. The graduation march always lists them in that order, but certainly in my own case, graduating was largely a case of circumstance, and so I felt undeserving of any pomp.
In last weekend's case, it was my sister who was graduating from college, a milestone which we celebrated dutifully by waking up early to attend her ceremony. Rather than have the graduations all at once at a sensible hour, departments had their own mini-graduations staggered throughout the day. I also staggered throughout the day, because sleep was not an option to travel and attend her 8 a.m. ceremony for the humanities. Oh, I said, oh the humanities.
I sat down and was pleased that there were some empty seats in front of me so I could see the stage. Those of you who have ever gone with me to a movie theater can guess what happened next -- a very tall fellow with a preposterously frizzy head of hair sat down right in front of me. So, I watched some hair and listened to some speeches. There was a fascinating speech by a man who railed against scientism and technology. His argument was that humanities and the arts are essential, because cold analysis and computing power cannot replace creativity.
This, sadly, is false. An infinite number of electronic monkeys and electronic keyboards will not only eventually produce all the works of Shakespeare, but also some funnier stuff as well. Certainly, I could be replaced by a computer. The graduation card I got for my sister proclaimed "You're a Rock Star!" on the front. On the inside, I wrote, "Of quartz we'd never take you for granite; gneiss job graduating!" I'm sure a humor computer could have written the same jokes by searching a rock pun database. (Even if the sediments would not be as heartfelt.)
During the presentation of degrees, attendants were asked not to applaud after each student's name, but only at the end of the departmental list. I obeyed the letter of the law, and shouted "Huzzah!" after my sister's name instead. I recalled similarly cheering for friends at graduations a decade ago. It may seem silly, but silly is what stays with me.
So we beat on, jokes against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
Seth Brown is a humor writer, the author of "It Happened In Rhode Island," and shale congratulate his sister once again. His work appears weekly in the Transcript, and weakly on RisingPun.com.