So I went to my son’s commencement from grad school (Ph.D. in Bioinformatics) at UCSC last week, expecting to suffer through a cliché-filled commencement talk about the challenges facing grads in the 21st century. Instead, the speaker, a philosophy grad well steeped in UCSC’s singular History of Consciousness college, started off by recounting her suicidal impulses, starting at age seven and almost actualized at age fifteen.
The audience, sitting in the bright sunny meadow overlooking Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean, fidgeted and squirmed like live sardines in close quarters. Some whispered to their partners, “Is this appropriate? Now?”
Then the speaker descended into a deep philosophical soliloquy, dispatching many to afternoon slumber…myself included. It was if we had descended to a History of Unconsciousness, although the graduates, adorned in plain, rented black gowns and cardboard caps, seemed oblivious to the speech, the sun, the ocean, and the families straining to see their seeds across the meadow like rows of corn, only exuberant over what was over.