Saturday, 10 July 2010

Surfer Ticket Time

Graduation ceremonies approach, and we're getting the place ready, putting up marquees and finally doing a little hoovering.

I've never understood the attraction, myself -- despite being moderately proud of my three and a half degrees, I've never attended a degree ceremony. People say that, like weddings, it's really for the parents. But then, I've never got married, either. In Joni Mitchell's words, "We don't need no piece of paper keepin' us tied and true" ... (or maybe in Bob Marley's: "Ain't got no surfer-ticket on me, man").


Martyn Cornell said...

Do my two degrees and two wedding certificates trump your three and a half degrees and no wedding certificate? Not at all, but I thoroughly enjoyed both my wedding days, each time I and the woman becoming Mrs hyphen Cornell did it for us and only us, one was a Quaker ceremony in a 17th century Meeting House, the other in St Bride's in Fleet Street, after each wedding there was a cracking party with friends, and I have great memories (and photographs) of both days. Personally I like ceremonies that mark life events, occasions that say "that was before and now this is after". All your graduands could just get their certificates in the post, but the university wisely recognises the community-wide desire for a celebration involving silly clothes and speeches. However, saying "not for me" to silly clothes and speeches is an entirely respectable position: if it's not pulling this metaphor too thin to cover my argument, you don't need a degree certificate to be knowledgeable about something, and you don't need a wedding certificate to be dedicated to the person you live with.

Mike C. said...

Well, I can raise you a one mile swimming certificate and lifetime membership of the Biggles Air Police, but -- obviously -- I concede that your take on the matter is the majority position.

I have always avoided rites of passage, and in particular any occasion where suits, big hats and floral arrangements figure largely. But, believe me, Martyn, I am well aware of being an outlier on most statistical plots and it can be lonely up here on metaphorical Cold Mountain, especially when the fashionable crowd moves on to some other remote spot on the chart.

It was quite a shock to discover, for example, how many other long-standing "unmarried" couples from our college days had secretly married in recent years, and didn't invite us to their mainly tax-driven little ceremonies.

As to study, I think it has always been the case that a degree is like a driving license: your long journey starts here. Unfortunately, most graduates abandon the adventure right after the ceremony, and wake up the next morning reborn as complacent, middle-brow philistines with a contempt for everything that doesn't put money in the bank or get shown on TV...

When men see Han-shan
They all say he's crazy
And not much to look at -
Dressed in rags and hides.
They don't get what I say
And I don't talk their language.
All I can say to those I meet:
"Try and make it to Cold Mountain."

(Gary Snyder translation)