Thursday, June 5, 2008

"As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters."

Today, J.K. Rowling delivered a commencement address to the incredibly lucky Harvard Class of 2008. (Seriously, why couldn't she have been at A&M in 2003? If she had I would definitely be able to remember who at least spoke at my graduation.) Her speech is incredibly inspiring and does not center around her success with Harry Potter - well she did throw in a gay wizard joke for good measure. But rather, the speech focused on her failures beforehand and how imagination can change the world, not just financially but real change.

On the fringe benefits of failure:
So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life. You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.
On the importance of imagination:
Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared. If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped transform for the better. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.
With such eloquence and wisdom, it is not wonder that she turned out to be such a success story. Or, that she is one of my heroes. fyi - the headline is a quote she used at the end from Roman philosopher Seneca.

The full text of her speech is available online, if you would like to read the rest of it.


Anonymous said...

I like this sentence so much. I think,some sentence mean the excellence,some mean the medicine for life and world.

Hari Singh said...

I just read it.. then googled it.. And got your link. Voila! But a very inspiring speech, especially during office hours.