Thursday, June 6, 2013

"Everyone is just waiting..."

Dr. Seuss' beloved Oh, the Places You'll Go! is a staple of graduation ceremonies across America. Appearing in early 1990, Oh, the Places You'll Go! was Dr. Seuss' final tribute to his adventurous life, writing it while he slipped into an old, frail age. So ill was Seuss, suffering from jaw complications and his wife's depression, that he was unable to perform the traditional reading at Random House, his publisher.

And what a life to celebrate. A childhood amongst a loving German-American family, studying at Dartmouth and Oxford, countless successes from The Cat in the Hat to Green Eggs and Ham, and nearly divinity as a children's author all colored his lifetime.

My favorite part of Oh, the Places You'll Go! was always the section talking about everyone waiting. "Waiting for a train to go/or a bus to come, or a plane to go/or the mail to come," Seuss rhymes, calling "the waiting place" a "more useless place."

"NO! That's not for you!," the next page screams! "Somehow you'll escape/all that waiting and staying."

Since my childhood, I was never keen with patience. My ambitions, my imagination, and my passions always coaxed my impatient attitudes. I was always busy - creating fundraising drives for the rainforest, collaborating with student councils, maintaining a job (I had my town's newspaper route from 3rd grade until 9th grade!), and wherever I was, I was never content with the status quo.

Dr. Benjamin Rider, a philosopher from the University of Central Arkansas, writes of the deep philosophical themes within Oh, the Places You'll Go! According to Rider, greek and roman philosophers, including Socrates and Plato, agreed with Seuss and I.

Socrates believed that "unexamined values, believes, and assumptions" cause individuals to make poor decisions disguised as the key to happiness. Throughout his literature, Seuss features antagonists questioning every aspect of their society - characters not playing "the waiting game."

Without thinking about "the most important matters" in life, such as "happiness, virtue, or what it means to be human," individuals lose their ability to rationalize in a humanistic, beneficial manner.

"I say it is the greatest good for a human being to discuss virtue every day and those other things about which you hear me conversing and testing myself and others, for the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being," Plat would write of Socrates in Apology.

Maybe I've always been a follower of the socratic method or socratic questioning. Always asking "why?" and feeling the need to make progress in my community - now! And most importantly, the youth I meet from colleges across America feel the same way.

We're tired of our former generation's waiting game! "There is fun to be done!/There are points to be scored./There are games to be won," Seuss writes of the future.

Yes, there are mountains waiting, for all of us. For some it's getting through college, finding that right major, or getting on your feet. For everyone, it's learning how to peacefully co-exist as fellow humans, so our world is better than the world we found

But as Dr. Seuss, that timeless narrator of our childhood bedtimes, says, "Kid, You'll Move Mountains, 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed."

Books Used for this Post
Judith & Neil Morgan's Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geuisel: A Biography
Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go!
Dr. Benjamin Rider's Chapter "Oh, the Places You'll Go! The Examined, Happy Life" within Jacob Held's Dr. Seuss and Philosohpy


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