Tag Archives: intonation

172. British Comedy: Peter Cook & Dudley Moore

Listen to two comedy sketches from the 1960s, learn some popular cultural history, pick up some vocabulary and hear some posh English accents.

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I highly recommend that you purchase this BBC DVD of The Best of Peter Cook & Dudley Moore. It’s really funny!

Introduction (with transcript)

Hello everyone, welcome to the podcast.
In this episode we’re going to listen to a sketch from a comedy show called “Not only.. but also”, which was first broadcast on the BBC back in the sixties, when TV was in black and white and there were only 3 channels.

I’d love to tell you all about this show, and the people who made it. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are basically the fathers of modern British TV comedy. I’d love to tell you all about how before Monty Python even existed, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore were doing surreal, satirical and anti-establishment comedy on BBC TV, and getting huge audience ratings, and inspiring generations of people. I’d also love to tell you more about the history of British comedy, because for some reason it’s very important to me. It’s one of my favourite subjects. It just feels significant, and I want to share it with you. Listening to these things is good for your English, but ultimately the reward is even greater than that – you can enjoy listening to something that’s a little bit special. But I also realise that you might not have the same level of slightly fanatical interest in the history of comedy, as I do. I could bang on about some comedians from the 1960s, but you might think “this is interesting Luke, but let’s just listen to some of their work shall we?” So, I’ve decided to just skip through all the stuff about the history of comedy and go straight to a couple of sketches, tell you about them, help you to understand them, and then later in this episode I’ll give you a little history lesson on Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, and their place in the history of pop culture, and then not only will you be able to enjoy their comedy, but you’ll learn more about British cultural history.

So, let’s focus on the sketch. I’m just going to explain the context for you and then you can listen to it, and see if you get what’s going on.

First sketch: Peter Cook & Dudley Moore “A bit of a chat” aka “The facts of life”
In this scene you’ll hear a father talking to his son about a slightly sensitive topic. The scene was written and filmed in the early sixties, probably 1964.

First, just listen (there is a script below, but try listening without it first)
Just listen to this and try and work out what is going on. Then I’ll explain things, and you can hear it again. There’s a script available for this sketch on my webpage.
As you listen you should try to work out what’s happening here. Why is this such a strange conversation? And why is the audience laughing? You might need to “read between the lines” which means look beyond what is just being said in order to discover the hidden meanings or suggestions at work.

How much of that did you understand? Did you get the humorous aspects of it? Let me explain the context, and the main points of the sketch.

*Sketch starts – “A Bit of a Chat”*
(See below for the script)

What happened?

Context
What do you know about Father/Son relationships in the UK in the 1950s & 60s?
They were more formal, especially among upper-class or upper-middle class families. Sons would call their father ‘sir’. They’d be very respectful, as if talking to someone of much higher status. They probably didn’t spend a lot of time together. These days, fathers and sons from normal middle-class families are quite close. They share quite a lot, and are able to talk quite openly about sensitive subjects like relationships or sex education. It might be embarrassing for the boy, but basically, the father feels quite comfortable doing it, and it’s normal and accepted. Back in the 50s or 60s, it wasn’t exactly the same. I suppose British men were less ‘in touch with their feelings’ and found it very awkward to discuss sensitive personal topics openly. Instead they may have dealt with them in the same formalised and distant way as they would talk about other topics. Also, we wonder how much most people really knew about sexual education in those days. Back in the 1950s or early 60s, before the era of sexual liberation, I think that a lot of people were completely in the dark about reproduction and all that kind of thing.
How about now? Are people more comfortable when talking about topics such as reproduction and sex?
Not completely, but certainly more so than 50 years ago.

The Class System & Boarding Schools
A little bit about the class system – particularly the upper class.
Nowardays, most people are middle class. In fact, many people believe that we don’t have a formalised class system these days. 50 years ago, the UK was more divided by class. Lower class (working class), middle class and upper class. Let’s look at traditional upper class culture. The upper class, or upper middle classes were considered to be:
Wealthy, educated, respectable and quite formal. Not liberated sexually, but bound by polite & formal social conventions. They would have been quite prudish about sex, finding it very embarrassing to talk about the subject. Many of the men would have been educated in exclusive, single sex boarding schools, which by all accounts would have been pretty cold, very formal and quite brutal. The boys never mixed with girls and grew up to be pretty clueless about sex. Kids and their parents didn’t spend a lot of time together, because of the boarding schools, and a father was more like a master than a friendly Dad.

Vocabulary
It seems that very posh people, from this period, often don’t really say exactly what they mean. They might make something sound more trivial than it actually is. For example “I had to give someone rather a ticking off” = means “I quite forcefully reprimanded someone for doing something wrong”
rugger – rugby
grubby – dirty / muddy
having a crafty smoke – secretly having a cigarette
give someone rather a ticking off – telling someone off
it’s a filthy habit – it’s a dirty habit
to cope with someone – to deal with someone
to get up to something – to do something (naughty)

Remember – it’s all about reading between the lines. What’s really going on? What really happened?

What does each line of dialogue really mean. E.g. the line about “there’s a cup of tea in here if you’d like one” means – come and sit down because I need to talk to you. The lad doesn’t want to, because, well, it’s probably awkward to talk to the old man, and this sounds like it could be serious.

Let’s listen to it again now, and consider each line, what is going on, and what is funny.

Second Listen

Questions
What does the Father want to talk about?
Why does the Father feel he has to talk about this?
What does the Father mean by “The opposite number?”
Why does the Father talk about sitting on a chair, etc?
Who is Uncle Bertie?
What is Uncle Bertie’s relationship with the boy’s mother?

A Bit Of A Chat (Script)
Roger, aged almost eighteen, arrives home from school, whistling: All Things Bright and Beautiful. His Father wants to have a bit of a chat with him about something. Just, a bit of a chat…
Father: Is that you, Roger?
Roger: Yes, father.
Father: There’s a cup of tea in here, boy, if you’d like one.
Roger: It’s very kind of you, sir, but I’ve just come in from rugger, and I’m a bit grubby. I think I ought to go and have a shower first, sir.
Father: Well pour me a cup, there’s a good chap, would you?
Roger: Certainly sir, yes, of course.
Father: Thank you. How was school today?
Roger: Oh, much as usual, thank you sir, but I caught someone having a crafty smoke behind the wooden building. I had to give him rather a ticking off — such a filthy habit, you know.
Father: It’s a filthy habit, Roger.
Roger: There we are, sir. Now, if you’ll excuse me.
Father: Roger.
Roger: Yes sir?
Father: Er — sit down. Roger, your mother and I were having a bit of a chat the other day, and she thought it might be a good idea if I was to have a bit of a chat with you.
Roger: Er… a bit of a chat, sir?
Father: A bit of a chat, yes, Roger, just…
Roger: Er…
Father: A bit of a chat.
Roger: What about, sir?
Father: Well, there’s nothing to be worried about, Roger, it’s just that, er, well, to be perfectly frank… how old are you?
Roger: Well, to be perfectly frank, sir, I’m coming up to eighteen.
Father: Coming up to eighteen…
Roger: Well, on the verge of…
Father: On the verge of eighteen… Yes, well, I thought it might be a good idea to have a bit of a chat now, because I remember, from my own experience, that it was when I was just, you know, coming up to eighteen…
Roger: On the verge…
Father: …on the verge of it, that I first began to take a serious interest in the – um – in the – er – opposite… the opposite… number. Now I don’t know, Roger, if you know anything about the method whereby you came to be brought about.
Roger: Well, sir, some of the boys at school say very filthy things about it, sir.
Father: This is what I was worried about, and this is why I thought I’d have a bit of a chat, and explain, absolutely frankly and openly, the method whereby you, and everybody in this world, came to be. Roger, in order for you to be brought about, it was necessary for your mother and I to do something. In particular, it was necessary for your mother… it was necessary for your mother – to sit on a chair. To sit on a chair which I had recently vacated, and which was still warm from my body. And then, something very mysterious, rather wonderful and beautiful happened. And sure enough, four years later you were born. There was nothing unhealthy about this, Roger, there’s nothing unnatural. It’s a beautiful thing in the right hands, and there’s no need to think less of your mother because of it. She had to do it – she did it – and here you are.
Roger: Well sir, it’s very kind of you to tell me. One thing, actually, slightly alarms me; um, I was sitting in this very chair yesterday sir, and I vacated it, and the cat sat on it while it was still warm. Should we have it destroyed?
Father: Its a lovely chair, Roger…
Roger: I mean the cat, sir.
Father: Destroy… oh, no Roger, you don’t understand. This thing of which I speak can only happen between two people who are married. And you’re not married.
Roger: Not yet, anyway sir.
Father: Not to the cat, in any case. Well, Roger, now that you have this knowledge about chairs and warmth, I hope – I hope you’ll use it wisely, and take no notice of your school friends, or what Uncle Bertie may say.
Roger: Dirty Uncle Bertie they call him.
Father: Dirty Uncle Bertie – and they’re right, Roger. Bertie’s a dirty, dirty man. He’s been living with us now for forty years, and it does seem a day too much… You know, if it hadn’t been for your mother, Roger, I don’t know where we would have been. She’s the only person who can really cope with Uncle Bertie, she’s the only one who can really deal with him. I don’t know if you realise this, Roger, but your mother even has to sleep in the same bed as Uncle Bertie, to prevent him getting up to anything in the night. If only there were more people like your mother, Roger.
Roger: Well, I’m very pleased that you’ve told me this, sir, because, as I say, I’m very glad I don’t have to believe all those filthy things that the boys at school say, and only yesterday, Uncle Bertie said to me…
Father: Take no notice of Uncle Bertie, Roger! He’s a sick, sick man, and we should feel sorry for him.
Roger: Well, I’ll try, sir… well.. thank you sir. Er – I wonder if I should take a cup of tea up to mother, while…
Father: I – er – I wouldn’t do that, Roger – she’s upstairs at the moment, coping with Uncle Bertie…
Roger: Poor Uncle Bertie…
Father: Poor Uncle Bertie…

And here’s the garden party sketch. It comes from another great BBC TV show called “The Fast Show”, which was Johnny Depp’s favourite British TV show.

The Psychiatrist Sketch (Script)

Braintree: Come in.
[Enter Roger.]
Hullo, Roger.
Roger: Hullo, Dr Braintree.
B: Hullo, come in.
R: I’m sorry I’m late.
B: That’s quite all right – how are you?
R: I’m very well, thank you.
B: Would you like to sit down, or would you prefer to lie.
R: Uhm, I’ll sit, thank you.
B: Right, well, sit down. Tell me, how are you in yourself?
R: I’m feeling just great.
B: Oh, this is terrific.
R: Yes, and it’s more than I expected from our sessions. You know, if anyone had told me that talking to psychiatrists could have help me at all, I would have laughed in their faces.
B: Yes.
R: But I can honestly say that our little chats together have really been of tremendous help to me.
B: I’m so glad, Roger: of course a lot of people are instinctively suspicious of psychiatry, but it can help at times.
R: Well, I really think it can, because you know, I’ve got so much self-confidence now. I’m much less self-conscious in the company of the opposite sex, whichI wasn’t, as you know.
B: Yes, yes, yes, yes. You’re less inhibited, are you?
R: [Suggestively] Oh yes, I should say so.
B: Good, this is terrific.
R: And the wonderful thing about it all is … well, I’m in love.
B: Well, this is wonderful news, Roger – you’re in love. – With a woman?
R: Yes.
B: So much the better – that’s terrific.
R: You know, it’s so wonderful to be in love – I can’t tell you the absolute joy I have. … this girl, this creature
[emotional]
, this goddess …
R: I mean, she’s
B: Yes …
R: She’s so, you know, it’s so right. Everything is so wonderful, you know.
B: Yes, yes – you really click together.
R: Yes. Oh, it’s so marvellous, but – the only trouble is that, apart from this wonderful light-hearted love I have, I seem to be saddled with this tremendous burning sense of guilt.
B: You have guilt as well as love: well, this is unfortunate, Roger. You know, sex is the most wonderful natural, healthy thing in the world. There’s no reason at all to have any guilt about it. I mean,why should you have guilt about sex?
R: Well, it’s not really as simple as that, you know – it’s rather difficult to explain. Uhm, I don’t reallyknow where to start. It’s rather difficult to explain. Uhm, I don’t really know where to start.
B: Well, begin at the beginning. That’s always the best place. What’s the girl’s name.
R: [Pause] Stephanie.
B: Stephanie. That’s a lovely name, isn’t it – well, my wife’s name in fact, isn’t it?
R: Yes, it’s Stephanie.
B: Yes, it’s Stephanie.
R: Yes, it’s Stephanie.
B: No, it’s Stephanie.
R: Yes, it’s Stephanie: it’s your wife.
B: Oh, you’re in love with my wife, Stephanie. Well, this is a perfectly understandable thing, Roger. She’s a very attractive woman – I married her myself. I don’t see why you should feel upset about that.
R: But she’s in love with me.
B: Well, this is again perfectly understandable, Roger. I mean, you’re a perfectly attractive human being, as I’ve told you over the last few weeks. There’s nothing repulsive about you, is there? There’s no reason why a highly sexed woman such as Stephanie shouldn’t fall in love with you. And I must explain to you, Roger, that I’m a very busy man: I have many, many patients to see – I see rather less of my wife perhaps than I should, and I think it’s very understandable she should seek some sort of companionship outside the marriage – I don’t think that’s unreasonable at all.
R: But she’s not seeking anything outside marriage – nor am I. We want to get married.
B: Well, this again is perfectly understandable. After all, you’re two young people in love and you want to express your feelings within the confines of a bourgeois society through marriage. I think it’s very appropriate.
R: The awful thing is, you see – I should feel so grateful to you for what you’ve done. And all I can feel is this burning jealousy – I can’t bear the thought of you touching her.
B: Well, of course, I understand this. One is tremendously possessive about someone one loves … it would be unhealthy not to have this jealous reaction, Roger.
R: But don’t you see – I hate you.
B: Of course you hate me, Roger.
R: I hate you for being so near her.
B: Yes, of course you hate me, Roger. You love to hate the one who loves the one you hate to love the one you hate. This is a very old rule, Roger – there’s nothing to feel ashamed about. It’s absolutely reasonable.
R: Don’t you understand – I want to kill you.
B: Of course you want to kill me. Because by killing me , Roger, you eradicate the one you hate. This is a perfectly natural reaction, Roger.
R: You’re so reasonable, aren’t you.
B: Yes, I am.
R: [Getting cross]
You understand it all so much …you are so logical.
[Gets up to strike him.]
B: Yes, I am – it’s my job.
R: I’m going to have to kill you
now
!
B: Ah – Roger – this is a little inconvenient, because I have another patient a six-thirty and then there’s someone else at seven after that. I wonder if you could make it some time next week.
[Standing over him.]
Could you make it early in the week, say?
R: [Pause – relax] When do you think?
B: How are you fixed on Wednesday morning? Say nine-thirty – would that be convenient?
R: Yes, that’s perfect.
B: Right, well, if you could pop along at nine-thirty and kill me then.
R: Once again, Doctor Braintree, I’m amazed, you know, really. I’m so grateful to you for showing me the way.
B: That’s what I’m here for, Roger.
R: Thank you very much. Thank you.
B: And with a bit of luck, this should be the last time you need to visit me

Comments
I think it’s pretty clear what’s funny about this. The psychiatrist has cured Roger and he feels so happy to be in love, but it turns out that Roger is in love with the Psychiatrist’s wife Stephanie. The psychiatrist doesn’t fly into a jealous rage – in fact he’s ridiculously logical and reasonable about it. This sketch allows us to imagine what the psychiatrist must be like at home – so reasonable all the time, he must be no fun at all. No passion, just plain dedication to his job; the rational understanding of psychology at the expense of natural human emotions and feelings, which is unnatural and ridiculous, as well as frustrating. It could be a wider statement about psychiatry, but let’s not analyse it too much. It’s just funny listening to the reactions, and the nicely written lines.

Vocabulary
There may be some words and expressions that you don’t know, or that could be useful to you. Let’s have a look:

terrific
our little chats together have really been of tremendous help to me
I’m much less self-conscious in the company of the opposite sex, which I wasn’t, as you know.
B: Yes, yes, yes, yes. You’re less inhibited, are you?
you really click together.
I seem to be saddled with this tremendous burning sense of guilt.
There’s nothing repulsive about you
There’s no reason why a highly-sexed woman such as Stephanie shouldn’t fall in love with you
You want to express your feelings within the confines of a bourgeois society through marriage.
I can’t bear the thought of you touching her.
Because by killing me , Roger, you eradicate the one you hate.
If you could pop along at nine-thirty and kill me then.

That’s it! Don’t forget to listen several times to get the full benefit!

Feel free to leave comments and questions below.

Thanks for listening,

Luke

73. Steve Jobs


Right-click here to download this episode.
Listen to Steve Jobs’ famous speech to graduates of Stanford University, read the transcript, notice some useful features of English, and learn some important lessons about life.

Tributes to Steve Jobs from Reuters News Feed
(Reuters) – President Barack Obama was among the many people who paid tribute to Steve Jobs, calling the Apple co-founder a visionary and great American innovator.

“Steve was among the greatest of American innovators — brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it,” Obama said of Jobs, who died on Wednesday.

“The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.”

The president was joined by political, technology, entertainment and business leaders around the world in paying tribute to Jobs. A selection:

BILL GATES, MICROSOFT CO-FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN

“Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives. The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor.”

STEPHEN ELOP, NOKIA CEO

“The world lost a true visionary today. Steve’s passion for simplicity and elegance leaves us all a legacy that will endure for generations. Today, my thoughts, and those of everyone at Nokia, are with the friends and family that he leaves behind.”

FRENCH PRESIDENT NICOLAS SARKOZY ON FACEBOOK

“His capacity to revolutionize entire sectors of the economy by the power of imagination and technology is a source of inspiration for millions of engineers and entrepreneurs across the world. His efforts to render new technologies more attractive and simple to use have made a success of businesses that have changed the world of computing, the distribution of cultural content, telecommunications and even animated cinema.”

RUPERT MURDOCH, CEO OF NEWS CORP

“Today, we lost one of the most influential thinkers, creators and entrepreneurs of all time. Steve Jobs was simply the greatest CEO of his generation.”

Full Reuters Article Here: mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE7950GT20111006?irpc=932

Steve Jobs’ Stanford University Speech
This is a prepared text of the Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife, except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We’ve got an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out later that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would go to college. This was the start, in my life.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked far more interesting.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path, and that will make all the difference.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents’ garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life’s going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking. Don’t settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and thankfully I’m fine now.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

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Watch a video of the speech here:
[youtube www.youtube.com/watch?v=UF8uR6Z6KLc&w=480&h=360%5D