In 2012 Neil Gaiman, prolific author of many wonderful works, gave a 20 minute commencement speech to the Philadelphia University of the Arts graduating class (link below). To me, it is a tragedy this is aimed at traditional artists and not students of all disciplines, although I’d like to think Gaiman knew his digital voice would be heard to all through the internet. Much of what he ruminates on, getting started in a career, failure, success, and exploding cats, can be applied to the equally rocky scientific world as well.
I originally started watching this video in preparation for my own speech in front of many relatives and friends, but I quickly became inspired to continue my own short fictional stories which continuously bounce around with my rhinos and agamid lizards. I also realized that perhaps no one has a clear career path, a thought I find oddly comforting.
My one exception to his speech is when he announces that new graduates don’t know the rules yet and so can successfully break them. Science is a rebellious club, to be sure, but it is our understanding and hypothesizing about the rules that leads to a more developed understanding of the world. Science will never be as freelance as art, because we depend on each other too much, but I see no reason why these two broad disciplines have to be divided so exactly.
CONGRATULATIONS CLASS OF 2013!