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Tom Robbins Graduating Commencement Speech in Oak Harbor Washington

When I wrote to Tom Robbins to ask if we could share this with The World Flag community, this is what he said! ” I am going on “maternity leave,” in an effort to bring to term my new book in progress.” He also shared that his memory of the commencement speech below was , virtually nothing, except that he squirted the front row in the auditorium with a water pistol:

Enjoy and Please Share!

“I am often asked whether there is life after death. Certainly there is. There is also death after life, and life before death, and death before life. It goes on forever. There is just no stopping it. You will live forever, and die forever. In fact, you already have.
As for Heaven and Hell, they are right here on Earth, and it is up to each of you in which one you choose to reside. To put it simply, Heaven is living in your hopes and Hell is living in your fears. In the traditional image, where hell is down and heaven is up, one escapes from hell by digging a hole in the ceiling. Though in an age of downers and uppers down and up no longer make sense, it is still possible to think of in and out. Think of Hell as in and heaven as out. To get out of hell you expand your soul until it is pushing on all the walls from the inside all the way around. If you just maintain a steady pressure, your soul will gradually filter out into limitless heaven beyond.
One problem with the notion of Heaven and Hell, however, is that, although they are exact opposites, an astonishing number of people see to be confused about which is which. For example, all over the United States on this very evening, commencement speakers are standing before audiences not greatly unlike yourselves, describing Hell as if they were talking about Heaven.
Their speakers are saying things such as, “Graduating Seniors, you have reached the golden threshold of maturity; it is time now to go out into the world and take up the challenge of life, time to face your hallowed responsibility.”And if that isn’t one Hell of a note, it’s certainly one not of Hell.
Growing up is a trap.
As for responsibility, I am forced to ask, “Responsibility to what?” To our fellow humans? Two weeks ago, the newspapers reported that a federal court had ruled that when a person’s brain stops functioning, that person is legally dead, even though his of her heart may continue to beat. That means that 80% of the population of the Earth is legally dead. Must we be responsibly to corpses?
No, you have no responsibility except to be yourself to the fullest limit of yourself, and to find out who you are. Or, perhaps I should say, to remember who you are. Because deep down in the secret velvet of your heart, far beyond your name and your address, each of you knows who you really are. And that being who is the true you cannot help but behave graciously to all other beings- because it is all other beings.
Yet, we are constantly reminded of our…”responsibility”. Responsibility means “obey orders without question, don’t rock the boat, and for God’s sake, get a job.” (Get a job. Sha na na na) That’s the scary one. Get a job. It is said as if it were a holy and inviolable law of nature. But the fact is although cultural humanity has been on earth for some 2 million years, they very concept of jobs is only about 500 years old. A drop in the bucket, to coin the phrase. And with advent of an electronic cybernetic automated technology, jobs are on the way out again. Jobs were just a splash in the pan, a passing fancy. There is no realistic relationship between jobs and work (work being defined as simply one of the more serious aspects of play) any more than there is a realistic relationship between jobs and eating. It is curious how many people believe that if it weren’t for jobs they couldn’t eat. As, if it weren’t for Boeing, their jaws wouldn’t chew; if it weren’t for the Navy their bowels wouldn’t move, and if it weren’t for Weyerhauser (that great destroyer of plants), plants wouldn’t grow. Technocratic assumptions about the identity of humanity, society and nature have warped our experience at it’s source and obscured the basic natural sense of things. Rabbits don’t have jobs. When was the last time you heard of a rabbit starving to death?
Ah, but we must be responsible, and if we are, then we are rewarded with the wite man’s legal equivalent of looting: a steady job, secure income, easy credit, free access to all the local emporiums and a home of your own to pile the merchandise in! And so what if there is no magic in your life, no wonder, no amazement, no playfulness, no peace of mind, no sense of unity with the universe, no giggling joy, no burning passion, no deep understanding, no overwhelming love? At least your ego has the satisfaction of knowing you are a responsible citizen.
Responsibility is a trap.
As a matter of fact, the entire System into which you were born, and which now, upon completion of high (high?) school you must perhaps face more directly, is a System designed to trap you – and manipulate you as a co-operating slave, a System designed to steep you you Hell.
Hell is living in your fears, and it is through fear, both subtle and overt, that the System traps you. Fear of failure, fear of social rejection, fear of poverty, fear of punishment, fear of death.
For example, we are taught to fear something called Communism, and millions of Americans go to sleep each night wondering if Mao Tse Tung is under their bed. Conversely, on the other side of the world, millions of Russians and Chinese go to sleep wondering if
Henry Kissenger is under their bed. Our totalitarian government uses the hoax of the threat of Communism to control and enslave us, just as the totalitarian Communist governments use the hoax of the threat of capitalism to control and enslave their people. It’s an extremely
old and obviously effective trick.

You see, the powers behind Communism and the powers behind Capitalism are virtually the same people. We might also include the powers behind the Vatican and the powers behind Islam. Their main function is to mystify the popular mind by creating illusions of
omnipotence and omniscience with which to command docility from their subjects, although it does not require much thorough investigation to discover that few of the peoples of this world are happy, healthy, or fulfilled. But never mind. There are ways out of the trap, ways, as I earlier suggested out of Hell. The only advice I have for you tonight is not to actively resist or fight the System, because active protest and resistence merely entangle you in the System. Instead, ignore it, walk away from it, turn your backs on it, laugh at it. Don’t be outraged, be outrageous! Never be stupid enough to respect authority unless that authority first proves itself respectable. And, unfortunately, there is no officially sanctioned authority today, from the President of the United States down to the cop on the beat, that has earned the right to your respect. So, be your own authority, lead yourselves. Remember the ways
and means of the Ancient Yogi masters, Pied Pipers, cloud walkers and medicine men. Get in harmony with nature.

Listen to the loony rhythms of your blood. Look for beauty and poetry in everything in life. Let there be no moon that does not know you, no spring that does not lick you with it’s tongues. Refuse to play it safe, for it is from the wavering edge of risk that the sweetest honey of freedom drips. Live dangerously, live lovingly, Believe in magic, Nourish your imagination. Use your head, even if it means going out of your mind. Learn, like the lemon and the tomato learned, the laws of the sun. Become aware, like the jungle became aware, of your own perfume. Remember that life is much too serious to take seriously – - so never forget how to play.
In times of doubt and chaos, it has been the duty of the superior persons- artists, poets, scientists, clowns, and philosophers (certainly no statesmen or military heroes)- to create order in the psychic vibrations of their fellow beings. But in times such as ours, times that are too carefully ordered, too strictly organized, too expertly managed thoroughly programmed and craftily planned, times in which too few control too many, it is the duty of all feeling, thinking humanitarian people to toss their favorite monkey wrenches into the machinery. On second thought, you do have some responsibility to your fellow beings. To relieve the repression of the human spirit, it is your sacred duty to screw things up royally.
Looking at you tonight, I know you’re going to do just fine.
Let me wrap this up with a few short questions I am often asked.
A difficult question.
(1) Will we be eaten by bugs and worms?
We ought to be. We have eaten, and we ought to be eaten. This is Justice, and there is no stopping it. If you have your body burned, starving the earth to
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(2) Does your soul fly out of your body the moment that you die?
No, this is a foolish superstition. Your soul is constantly
flying out of your body in just the same way that energy is
constantly flying out of the sun. At the monent your body dies, the
soul stops flying out.
(3) Is Jesus coming back?
Yes all the time. And so are you. All souls echo forever throught the universe.

I hope you have a wonderful trip.”

PARLIAMENT OF WORLD RELIGIONS Chicago, September 11, 1893

This speech given over 100 years ago could not be more appropriate today than it was then!

Sisters and Brothers of America,

It fills my heart with joy unspeakable to rise in response to the warm and cordial welcome which you have given us. I thank you in the name of the most ancient order of monks in the world; I thank you in the name of the mother of religions, and I thank you in the name of millions and millions of Hindu people of all classes and sects.

My thanks, also, to some of the speakers on this platform who, referring to the delegates from the Orient, have told you that these men from far-off nations may well claim the honor of bearing to different lands the idea of toleration. I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to Southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of the grand Zoroastrian nation. I will quote to you, brethren, a few lines from a hymn which I remember to have repeated from my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human beings: “As the different streams having their sources in different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee.”

The present convention, which is one of the most august assemblies ever held, is in itself a vindication, a declaration to the world of the wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita: “Whosoever comes to Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling through paths which in the end lead to me.” Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not been for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honor of this convention may be the death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal.

~Swami Vivekananda at 30 years old



by Buckminster Fuller
I am enthusiastic over humanity’s extraordinary and sometimes very
timely ingenuities. If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are
gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes
along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that
the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top.
I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting
yesterday’s fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for
solving a given problem. Our brains deal exclusively with specialcase experiences. Only our minds are able to discover the
generalized principles operating without exception in each and
every special-experience case which if detected and mastered will
give knowledgeable advantage in all instances.
Because our spontaneous initiative has been frustrated, too often
inadvertently, in earliest childhood we do not tend, customarily, to
dare to think competently regarding our potentials. We find it
socially easier to go on with our narrow, shortsighted
specialization’s and leave it to others — primarily to the politicians
— to find some way of resolving our common dilemmas.
Countering that spontaneous grownup trend to narrowness I will do
my, hopefully “childish,” best to confront as many of our problems
as possible by employing the longest-distance thinking of which I
am capable — though that may not take us very far into the future.
Having been trained at the U.S. Naval Academy and practically
experienced in the powerfully effective forecasting arts of celestial
navigation, pilotage, ballistics, and logistics, and in the long-range,
anticipatory, design science governing yesterday’s naval mastery of
the world from which our present day’s general systems theory has
been derived, I recall that in 1927 I set about deliberately exploring
to see how far ahead we could make competent forecasts regarding
the direction in which all humanity is trending and to see how
effectively we could interpret the physical details of what
comprehensive evolution might be portending as disclosed by the
available data. I came to the conclusion that it is possible to make a
fairly reasonable forecast of about twenty-five years. That seems to
be about one industrial “tooling” generation. On the average, all inventions seem to get melted up about every twenty-five years,
after which the metals come back into recirculation in new and
usually more effective uses. At any rate, in 1927 I evolved a
forecast. Most of my 1927′s prognosticating went only to 1952 —
that is, for a quarter-century, but some of it went on for a halfcentury, to 1977.
In 1927 when people had occasion to ask me about my
prognostications and I told them what I thought it would be
appropriate to do about what I could see ahead for the 1950′s,
1960′s, and 1970′s people used to say to me, “Very amusing — you
are a thousand years ahead of your time.” Having myself studied the
increments in which we can think forwardly I was amazed at the
ease with which the rest of society seemed to be able to see a
thousand years ahead while I could see only one-fortieth of that
time distance. As time went on people began to tell me that I was a
hundred years ahead, and now they tell me that I’m a little behind
the times. But I have learned about public reaction to the unfamiliar
and also about the ease and speed with which the transformed
reality becomes so “natural” as misseemingly to have been always
obvious. So I knew that their last observations were made only
because the evolutionary events I had foreseen have occurred on

For the full printable text Please refer to:OPERATING MANUAL FOR SPACESHIP EARTH by Buckminster Fuller

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