Joss Whedon Reminds You Kindly That Peace is Not the Same as Happiness


For everyone who had the first black ringmaster of Barnum and Bailey circus as their commencement speaker the year that their friend’s school got Conan O’Brien, or went to a college that adamantly refused to pay for interesting people to come so they were stuck long-winded self-involved speeches from professors at the University about their rise through the field of palentology, there’s the lucky kids at Wesleyan University, who got an earful of wisdom from television and film impresario Joss Whedon this past weekend.

Whedon, a graduate of Wesleyan (class of ’87 WOOT), made several noteworthy comments, if you can get through the beginning of his speech, where he talks a bunch about how we’re all going to die. He discusses “the voice” that can plague your life, that whispering that constantly tells you that you should be doing something different, something that someone else is doing, something that seems better because someone else is doing it. He then references the oft-quoted “The Road Not Taken“, updating it for Modern Timez:

“Let’s just say, hypothetically, that two roads diverged in the woods and you took the path less traveled. Part of you is just going, ‘Look at that path! Over there, it’s much better. Everyone is traveling on it. It’s paved, and there’s like a Starbucks every 40 yards. This is wrong. In this one, there’s nettles and Robert Frost’s body—somebody should have moved that—it just feels weird.'”

This feeling that you should have done something different, this worry, that never goes away, Whedon argues. And that’s your secret to relaxing, is when you can realize and embrace the consistency of not feeling consistent in your life:

“And if you think that achieving something, if you think that solving something, if you think a career or a relationship will quiet that voice, it will not. If you think that happiness means total peace, you will never be happy. Peace comes from the acceptance of the part of you that can never be at peace. It will always be in conflict. If you accept that, everything gets a lot better.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we could stop waiting for that thing that is going to make it all better? That relationship or the perfect job or the great apartment or that thing with your family to resolve? There’s this idea that if you “have it all” your life will be calm all of a sudden. (Or that you even can have it all. Not even men can have it all, they say.) Where did we get this idea? It’s exhausting. According to Whedon, we should let it go, because it doesn’t exist and anyway, you’ll make your mark and change the world whether or not you pay attention or are happy while doing it:

“You are going to change the world, because that is actually what the world is. You do not pass through this life, it passes through you. You experience it, you interpret it, you act, and then it is different. That happens constantly. You are changing the world. You always have been, and now, it becomes real on a level that it hasn’t been before.”

Whedon ’87 Delivers 181st Commencement Address

(h/t ThinkProgess)

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