by Glenn Close @wm.edu
(Emphasis in quotes added by me, the editor.)
I wanted to tell you about why I ended up here because I have learned how important it is to have a healthy dose of skepticism. I don’t mean cynicism or contempt, I mean the crucial ability to question and assess — from a dispassionate, objective point of view — whatever beliefs or tribes you eventually choose to espouse. It doesn’t come to me naturally. I had been raised to be a total believer, to not question. But for me, coming into this ideas-rich community, having had all my beliefs and behaviors dictated to me from the age of 7, it was vital that I learn how to question.
Your singular point of view:
What each of you have, and what you must believe in from this day forward, is your inherent uniqueness. Your singular point of view. No one looks out onto the world through your eyes. Your perspective is unique. It’s important and it counts. Try not to compare it to anyone else. Accept it. Believe in it. Nurture it. Stay fiercely, joyously connected to the friends you have made here, to those you love and trust. You will have each other’s backs for the rest of your lives.
In order to inhabit a character I have had to find where we share a common humanity. I can’t do characters justice if I am judging them. I have to find a way to love them. The exploration into each character I play has made me a more tolerant and empathetic person. I have had to literally imagine myself in someone else’s shoes, looking out of someone else’s eyes. I urge you to learn how to do that. You can with practice. Start by being curious about the “whys” of someone’s behavior. Before you judge someone, before you write them off, take the time to put yourself in their shoes and see how it feels.
Kindness. It’s a simple word, but it is essential if we are to survive as a species on this planet. So I come to another thing I’ve learned. I learned, from reading the writings of the great Edward O. Wilson, that one of the core reasons we have been so successful as a species is that we evolved the capacity to empathize. That means that the tribes who espoused empathy were more successful at survival than the ones who didn’t. In order for the community, the tribe, to survive and thrive, we humans had to evolve the ability to register the emotions, the plight, the fears and the needs of other members of our tribe and to respond to them with empathy. We die without connection. Nothing is worse for us humans than to be bereft of community.
Gentleness and love:
Everyone needs so much gentleness and love. I don’t mean that idealistically; I mean it as a major means of survival. There is just too much working against sanity and civilization. … from within ourselves, to the differences between people and sexes … to the whole human comedy. Gentleness and love. I can forget so easily, but it’s always a great comfort to come back to.