So, are you all ready to return home to see your childhood friends and family for the first time since September? How exciting! Most of us are eager to proudly wear our school hoodies to the Thanksgiving feast and to share with our friends and family all of the meaningful insights we've gained over the past four months. What bliss! Won't grandma and grandpa be impressed to hear what Howard Zinn had to say about Columbus, the Indians, and the first Thanksgiving! Mom and dad will be amazed by Freud's writings on The Future of an Illusion, and how our friends will reel at our insights into Nietzsche and the contextual relativity of truth. What pride there will be for this proof of the return on their tuition investment!
For the past four months many of you have lived in an environment of relative intellectual freedom. You have slept, eaten, read, attended lecture, and socialized with the 1/3 of the population who attend college. You have become accustomed to an artificial utopia where conversation with graduate students, professors, researchers, musicians, artists, and a varied spectrum of other folks who score high on the Big-5 Trait Scale of openness, are the majority rather than the exception. You have become comfortable with the freedom to express your intellectual questions, your political and sexual preferences, and your social criticisms without the usual fear of condemnation that might have been present in your younger years.
Do you all recall that story in which Plato told about the cave? You remember, the one where a slave becomes aware that what she thought was reality was, in fact, a mere shadow? That's the one. Now recall what Plato tells us about what happened when that slave returned to the cave after seeing "the light" of the outside world. The cave-dwellers (still shackled to their shadows) were upset, angry, and even claimed that the returned slave was "crazy".
Now, some of you will be tempted to share your ideas and newly learned information with those "back home". You might even find yourself with the desire to correct or enlighten that windbag relative who thinks they are going to tell it "as it is". For some of you this will be a welcomed conversation. For most of you (especially if you are a first-generation college student) your enthusiasm might be met with anger, disappointment, and concern for your well-being. This is an important message to hear, so I will say it again; your enthusiasm to share what you have discovered is likely to be met with objection and detestation. You might even be told that you are being corrupted.
Here is the point to take from this message: choose your battles wisely. Part of learning and exploring is understanding that there are many different strategies for living, life-philosophies, and worldviews (avoid using terms like Weltanschauung at the dinner table). Sometimes it is best to allow our family and friends to be proud of our accomplishments without them knowing the specific content of those accomplishments. In the words of the Buddhist philosopher Alan Watts, "unsolicited advice is always self-serving." We can also say that unsolicited worldview is potentially self-serving. The best gift you can give those close to you is to allow them to celebrate their pride in you. If they ask, don't hesitate to share. However, if they do not, allow them to be proud of you in their own way. As delusional as that might be.