Words of Worth

Pomp and Circumstance

May 22, 2017

It is probably safe to say that somewhere, in some educational institution in the world, the march, Pomp and Circumstance, will be playing numerous times during the months of May and June. And someone, in any educational institution, will be struggling to keep their mortar board in place.

As a professor in the higher education world, one of the most pleasant, and at the same time, unpleasant events on campus, is Commencement! Why is it that such a day, which celebrates the milestone achievement of so many students, is both a cause to smile and to cry? Without fail, as soon as I hear “Pomp and Circumstance” at any graduation ceremony, I am reduced to tears.

This confusing blend of emotion reminds me of a children’s picture book, which also causes grins and tears, The Hello, Goodbye Window. The story is about an imaginative little girl who spends time with her Nanna and Poppy each day while her parents work. The kitchen window, in the grandparents’ house, is a place where the young girl plays games, watches the stars, spots her parents coming to pick her up, and most importantly, where she says, Hello and Goodbye to her grandparents. It is at this window of magic and love that the young child first greets her grandparents when visiting, and where she says goodbye when her parents return to pick her up at the end of the day. And while the girl is happy to see her parents return, she is also sad because it means the end of the visit with her doting grandparents. Her grandparents try to help her with this powerful conflict by saying, being happy and sad as the same time “just happens that way sometimes.”

It’s that “happy and sad at the same time” thing that gets me when I hear Pomp and Circumstance. Imagine the excitement of saying hello to students for the very first time, growing to love them and watching them conquer the rigor of academia! Imagine the day when you have to say goodbye to those who have walked the hallways of your school, and occupied a seat in your classroom world, as well as a place in your heart! Imagine the day, when all the lectures have been given, all the exams have been taken, and they exit your classroom for the last time! Is it any surprise that smiles give way to tears?

Perhaps one of the more intriguing aspects of being “fearfully and wonderfully made” (see Psalm 139) is that various emotions can exist at the same time. And isn’t it equally intriguing that things which are in contrast to one another, often follow one another? For example, endings contrast and follow beginnings, goodbyes trail hellos, joy in the morning follows tears at night, and commencing trails graduating. And not only do contrasting experiences give way to one another, they often become part of one another. A beginning can’t be a beginning were it not for the endings. Joy would make no sense without sadness. Pain often eases into the comfort of pleasure, and would hardly be recognizable without it.

So it is safe to expect that somewhere in the world, when Pomp and Circumstance is playing, and someone is struggling to keep their mortar board in place, there will also be someone who is happy and sad at the same time– “…it just happens that way sometimes.”

Congratulations to all who are graduating! May God continue to bless you with the talents and achievements He has granted. And may you use your knowledge to His glory!

There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are a *precious jewel.

Proverbs 20:15

*(precious = synonym for Hebrew word, POMP)

%d bloggers like this: