It all began innocently enough, with a search for links to share with my friend on Facebook. Her son was the only male in the dance class and wasn’t eager to share that information with his schoolmates. So I was showing her about Mikhail Baryshnikov, famous man AND ballet dancer. I linked her to some of the recordings of his earlier dancing–the great, effortless, floating leaps and the dizzying twirls and spins he is so well known for. And there, in the middle of this performance and that movie, was a link to this: Baryshnikov Gives Commencement Speech
I was entranced, I was inspired, I found myself writing down quote after quote from Baryshnikov, or as we shall refer to him ever after this, “Misha”. His accent was charming and his wisdom, undeniable. I had known about his athletic and artistic powers; I had enjoyed him in the various movies I saw him in. I was even aware that he had been a guest on the last season of “Sex and the City”. But I had no idea that he was this smart–and frankly, it’s the best kind of smarts, the School of Hard Knocks and Life Experiences. It’s knowledge that is treasured because it hurt so much, cost so much, to gain it. You don’t learn shit like this from a book. Unless that’s some amazing book. No, you can’t learn it from a book. Even the words he used at this commencement will not have the complete effect and understanding to those students until they live life, until they experience the things needed to cast the last bit of illumination, add that final little piece to tip the words over from mere sound into that full, AHA! moment of crystalline understanding.
I was particularly moved by the phrase, “the challenge of the complicated conversation”. Isn’t that what we all really are doing, when we live our life? We are participating in an ongoing and constant conversation–with ourselves, with others, with the world around us. And yes, it’s complicated as hell. Misha specifically tells us to “create a space for the Big Conversations”. (He doesn’t tell us what they are–that we discover for ourselves!) And I think that the Big Conversations can come down to two main ideas out of his 20 minute speech:
First, he says, “Living a life that is fully lived, being fully human, is bigger than success”.
Corollary to that is this thought: “Any process is confronted with failures”. That includes the process of living that full life, and being human.
Second, instead of trying to be “the best”, he suggests that we try to be “better”. Just better. According to Misha, “better” is more personal, more interesting
Then he asks, “Am I doing something today that will make me better…tomorrow?”
Now I don’t promise you that all of our conversations will be life-altering, or deeply emotional or dreadfully intellectual–but they will be a free exchange of ideas and personal thoughts, sharing information and hopefully, learning something along the way. I do promise this much: it will, most assuredly, be complicated. Are you up to the challenge?