From an online Alumni Bulletin I get. I was Class of ’68.
Drawing on lessons and anecdotes collected over his lifetime, writer Meir Ribalow ’66 offered students advice on grades, money, success, failure and other topics at an assembly on May 6.
Ribalow interspersed his maxims with colorful stories that met with frequent laughter and a standing ovation from the crowd of of students, faculty and his own classmates who were on campus for their 45th reunion.
Here are a few highlights:
“Most of you are smart. Some of you are even smarter than that. Congratulations—and get over it. Being smart is useful, but it doesn’t mean much unless it evolves into wisdom. Think of it this way: A smart person knows how to get out of a situation that a wise person would never have gotten into in the first place.”
Joking that he was the “only Exeter student in history” to earn an advanced placement in Latin at Princeton after receiving an E-Squared (Gosh’s note: an E = an F at Exeter) in the subject while at Exeter, Ribalow said:
“The grade itself, however glittering, is fundamentally meaningless. What is meaningful is what it represents, which is the level of work that enabled that grade to be given in the first place. The point is there is a critical distinction between accomplishment and recognition.”
On pursuing your passions:
“I am a great believer in the primacy of passion, not only because it makes sense to live that way, but because it makes no sense to live any other way.”
“The reason I suggest following your bliss is not because you’re guaranteed to be rich or happy if you do, but because you’re likely to be miserable if you don’t. I’m not encouraging you all to run out and revel without a pause; I’m just saying that carpe diem is a better way to live than carpe per diem.”
“If you find a deep sense of fulfillment in being an architect, an actress, a writer, a shoemaker, then don’t give it up for a job that bores you just because that job pays more money. What career could possibly be more dead-end than one that’s dead at its beginning?”
“What is it finally? It’s little pieces of paper, coated with chlorophyll. You can’t eat it. You can’t drink it. It doesn’t even make a great bookmark. It’s only good for buying things. It serves its purpose, but is it worth living for?”
On defining success and failure:
“No one owes you fame, fortune, or their definition of success. But no one can stop you from living by your own notion of accomplishment.”
“I seem to have spent my entire life figuring out what I most wanted to do–what I would find most fulfilling–then found a way to have someone to pay me to do it. I’m not saying it’s easy to do, but I can tell you one true thing: Whatever regrets I have are from something I didn’t try, not anything I attempted unsuccessfully.”
“So if you do have a dream, please stay true to it. The world is full of people who will discourage you for free. You don’t need to help them do it.”
In closing, Ribalow read excerpts of “Sanctuary,” a poem featured in his upcoming collection, Chasing Ghosts (read the full poem here).
If we can speak, we can
sing. If we can move,
we can dance. We are the
answer to our prayers.
We choose our paths, seek
shelter from our storms.
But only within ourselves
will we find sanctuary.
Meir Ribalow ’66 is an internationally published poet, playwright and novelist. He is also an artist-in-residence at Fordham University and the founding artistic director of New River Dramatists, a creative retreat for writers. He has a new play in print (his fourth), a soon-to-be-published poetry collection and a novel due out this fall. ue out this fall.