The graduation ceremony remains a beautiful ritual
The stately Academy building in Utrecht, in the shadow of the Domkerk cathedral, was the place where a friend of mine received his bull. It made me feel melancholy. For it was a long time ago that I was part of that wonderful world. But it also pleased me that I stood in the heart of Utrechts intelligentsia again.
The ceremony took place in the Belle van Zuylen hall. Naturally I was far too early. With tension in the chest, a knot in my stomach and anxiety racing through my head, I walked head-up into the hall. After an infinity of time, my friend entered the hall with his relatives. Always an exciting moment. He stepped towards me, a real gentleman, and presented to me his mother, girlfriend, mother in law and two friends. We sat down. I sat next to his girlfriend, silently.
The esteemed professors walked into the hall. I recognized two of them, from way back when I studied. When their gaze crossed mine, they kindly nodded to me. They still recognize me!, I thought happy and felt one with the intelligentsia. Being naive has such nice moments.
Congratulations and chit-chat conversation
The whole crowd applauded for the last time and we walked out into the Eijkman room for a drink. The fear in my chest awakened again and the knot in my stomach tightened. It was a small but beautiful room with portraits on the walls of our own esteemed Nobel laureates. I got a beer in my hands and we toasted. Everything all right. The tension was manageable, though my head went in a higher gear. Because I did not know anything to say to these unknown relatives. It was a chit-chat conversation; for which I lack any expertise. I really tried my best to join the conversation, but no words came up, no anecdotes, no nothing. Only the inconvenience and anxiety was present.
The burning desire
In the distance I saw all those interesting people around me who were telling fascinating stories, asking each other questions or informing about their intellectual work. All of that I saw, in my mind, and I wanted to be with them. I saw the two professors I knew and hoped they would come to me. They did not. ‘Of course not, stupid. You must do that yourself! “, said my critic loud and clear. But I did not dare. I was glued to the floor.
Wu-wei and the focus on life
I saw myself standing there: safe but frustrated between these friendly people, talking about nothing. And then there arose a smile on my face. ‘Ah, you wannabe intellectual‘, I thought. What can a man long for what he does not have! Always looking forward to the well-known green grass at the neighbours. Wu-wei say the Chinese philosophers – stop trying! Accept what is and do not long for what is not – say the Greek Stoics. It’s better to focus on what you can and what you have, right here, right now. Promptly, with a warm smile from my friends mother, I got a second beer in my hand. We toasted on my graduated friend, together.