In George Faludy’s “Convocation Address,” he discusses the value of wisdom over science, and ultimately comes to the conclusion that comfort has become the goal of society, rather than knowledge. He credits science with providing people with longer lives and more comfortable civilizations, but the real value is in the traditions and the joining of minds, rather than the perpetuation of science. This essay will focus on Faludy’s role as the speaker, and his beliefs in relation to his time in a prison camp. Faludy basis much of his opinion about ideologies, mindlessness, and tradition on a very subjective experience, and does not provide an objective enough take for a meaningful discussion on what is truly valuable in life.
One of the two main conclusions that Faludy draws in his speech is the fact that people are focused on materialism, rather than on meaningful knowledge. He spends the majority of his speech describing his experience in a prison camp, and what it took for people to survive the dreadful experience. He says those who gathered to listen to his, and others’, lectures at night, rather than sleeping, were the ones who survived. Those who did not join them became like “vegetables” and some would not even speak. That group of people were the ones who eventually would have not enough purpose in life, and they would futilely attempt to escape. They would typically fall in the snow after a short distance, and then die within a couple days. The ones who stayed and listened to the lectures are the ones who survived. It was the ones who sought knowledge, and wanted to preserve tradition, rather than give way to ideas that wish to invade the higher knowledge of the speaker’s society. “It seems to me that the mentality of [those who vegetated rather than listen to the lectures] is, mutatis mutandis, analogous to the mentality of the consumer societies of the world, of those who seem obsessed with producing and consuming an ever-growing mountain of things to ensure comfort and survival; who have addicted themselves to energy as if to morphine until they are ready to destroy all nature to increase the dosage; who have, indeed, increased our life-span but have failed to mention that the brain requires jogging even more than the heart if that life-span is to mean anything” (11). The speaker is drawing a connection with those who were not interested in meaningful knowledge and the consumer society. Faludy draws a major conclusion in this analysis, and makes a connection that does not seem to fit. He discusses “rising above evil and mindlessness,” though he fails to make the connection between running for survival and being mindless. Those in the camp were malnourished and lost faith. They wanted to sleep instead of listen to the lectures, and this does not indicate they are mindless and cannot rise above evil, as indicated by the speaker. The speaker’s take is very subjective, and he likely has a clearer understanding of the reasons why he can relate mindlessness that was expressed by those who did not attend the lectures to a lower state of being to which he alludes in his writing – though he did not effectively enough communicate his vision to his speech’s listeners and readers.
The second conclusion to which the speaker draws is that art and thought is not “an amusement nor a yoke” (12). In this statement, the speaker is relating tradition to “half-baked” ideologies of the present. He is referring to the mentality and ideologies of those who held him captive. However, his experience in the prison camp gives him a distorted view on new concepts. In his personal experience, he views the beliefs of his people to be pure and righteous, due to the fact that he feels a particular nostalgia towards the earlier period of his life. New ideologies are represented through the speaker’s captors. This places an extremely biased burden on the speaker when attempting communicating rational opinions about consumerism, mindlessness, and tradition.
While the speaker very likely has the right idea about the need to stimulate the mind in order to live a fulfilling life, he is far too attached to the subject to provide an objective view. He adds a valuable component to the discussion as a person who experienced tyrannical captivity, but his opinions about new ideologies and traditions is microscopic when placed under the broad scope of various ideologies and traditions throughout time. After all, are not many traditions even more evil than the near-death experience he faced from a new ideologyin prison camp?
Faludy, George. “Convocation Address.” Weebly. 1978. Web. 6 Dec. 2013.