Here we are at the tail end of the yearly graduation season and at the time of my writing this, I attended four separate and relatively distinct ceremonies. Scale. Emotion. Level. Purpose. Organization. The odds are that if I were to add a fifth, the procession would take on another variation. I spoke at none of them, but my brain works on questions. The inquiry of each graduation day centered around "what if." What if I spoke at them? What would I say?
The goal would be to inspire.
The goal would be to motivate.
I'd like to make those reaching this particular milestone know that life was about to begin at a whole new pace. Despite everything they’ve faced, they've made it for a reason. Because they are who they are. So, as I tend to do, I start making a metaphorical soup of whatever happens to slide into my mind’s eye. First come the oddly shaped metaphors themselves. Then I start thinking about odds. They mix together whether they work or not. The soup may be tasty. It may be hot water with seasoning. I desperately want these graduates to know that they're here for a reason. They have purpose. Despite what they may here or even what they may have been led to believe, they are not broken. They are one in an estimated 7.888 billion people on planet Earth. Despite the large number, that is still significant. They are who they are and who they are meant to be. Add into that Harlow Shapley's speculation from 1959. He stated that "The universe has 10 million, million, million suns similar to our own." For scale that's:
Add to that the idea that only one in one million of those stars have a planet like Earth. That’s 100 million planets where life like ours could exist, 100 million planets that in theory could generate 1 in 7.888 billion.
On a cosmic scale this idea is ridiculous. The universe has these graduates where they are and where they are meant to be. And those graduates? What makes them who they are? What are the odds of them being born? The numbers vary depending on the source. For the sake of this soup, we are looking at an unfathomable number of one in 400 quadrillion. To spell that out:
The site Old School Gamers claims that this number is nearly equivalent to the number of gallons in the Atlantic Ocean. Loosely researched, I know. But that is soup. Random ingredients coming together for comfort. Still, these are long odds no matter how one approaches existence. Existence itself brings its own set of questions. One that constantly sits on my brain is the thought that asks if people can be broken? Even at those odds which approach infinity? I like to think not, but I realize the counter claim will run a full spectrum. For now, let us go bull extreme, It becomes the nature versus nurture debate. While I acquiesce we are genetically disposed for certain traits, our surroundings can help or hinder. Would serial killer X turn out better is he had received help in his youth? Would a holy man be corrupted before he even had a chance? But I return to the soup, optimistic with hunger. When a basement floods, is it the basement's fault that the pipe broke or the storm surge poured in through the windows? It’s all in the system perhaps. Systems can be broken. Morality can be broken. Health can be broken. People? I'd hope that they're not. I desperately want to believe they are not. Reading the soup, I feel that people can be parts of broken systems. In my own system, one that misplaces metaphors with overwhelmingly laughable numbers, there may be faults. But they're a foundation for hope. I hope people are where they are meant to be. Perhaps hindered by not broken. The hope is the infinity or optimism. It is the soup of infinity.