No Up Without Down

Four of us were busily chatting in the kitchen the other day, and Ess came in to tell us all something. We were very engaged talking to one another, and Ess could tell and she started to get this little hitch-stutter-filler in her speech, uncertainly stretching out words, aware that nobody was listening, wondering whether to continue. Essie’s experience lasted a brief moment, but the profound pain I felt in response, my daughter here, talking, no one listening, startled me. Here’s the flip side of that:

Now the commencement speakers will typically also wish you good luck and extend good wishes to you. I will not do that, and I’ll tell you why. From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.

Chief Justice John Roberts, speaking at his son’s commencement ceremony.

Brief Notes Nearby