While doing some research for a particular JK Rowling quote, I stumbled across her Harvard commencement speech from 2008 and both read the transcript and listened/watched her commencement speech. Holy Cow - there is little wonder why she tops my list of the people I most want to meet in my lifetime. She is amazing!
Her speech speaks of the benefits of both imagination and understanding/embracing failure. It is a lesson I strive to teach my own children, though I admittedly forgot these lessons myself. In this speech, I was reminded of so many things. Here are a couple of extended quotes from the transcript to relish:
"...failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life...Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected..."
"...Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people’s places. Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathize. And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.
I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces leads to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the willfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.What is more, those who choose not to empathize enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy."
Is it any wonder why she is what she is, where her true talent really comes from and how brilliant she actually is?
Just before my mother passed away in 2010, we talked about my goals for my writing career. She reminded me to strive to be like JK Rowling - someone destined to write stories that would forever change the world. It is a conversation I have never forgotten, though the goal of that seems a distant wish at times. But, hearing the speech and writing this post, I am reminded again that the only thing that can hold any of us back is our own patterns of thought. With that, and the renewed inspiration from this speech, I re-commit to my career and venture forward, refusing to be afraid!
Before I leave you all for the weekend, I wanted to link the speech, just in case you wanted to hear/see if for yourselves:
Truly inspirational. THANK YOU JK Rowling - for so very many things!