top of page
  • Writer's pictureMichael Kennedy

Life Happens

Updated: Feb 29

The commencement speech you never heard

“It's as though beautiful things have been placed here and there throughout the world to serve as small wake-up calls to perception, spurring lapsed alertness back to its most acute level. Through its beauty, the world continually recommits us to a rigorous standard of perceptual care: if we don't search it out, it comes and finds us.” ~ Elaine Scarry, On Beauty and Being Just


“This world is empty to him alone who doesn't understand how to direct his libido towards objects, and to render them alive and beautiful for himself, for Beauty does not indeed lie in things, but in the feeling that we give to them.” ~ Carl Jung, Psychology of the Unconscious

Commencement speeches can be fascinating, memorable, thrilling. Young minds on fire staring at the sage on the stage imagining all the possibilities. "This," they think, "is how I'll conquer the world."

But it's rare for someone to step up to the podium and deliver reality.

Imagine this speech.

Not all your heroes will turn out to be men of steel. Not all your priests, rabbis and spiritual teachers will live up to the noble virtues they espouse. You'll most likely engage in meaningless work at one time or other. Not all your dreams will come true. Your family, friends and pets will not live forever. You'll experience love that just isn't right. And you will fail or slip on the path to "success."

Life happens.

But there's hope.

The real value of education should help us make better decisions about how to think and what to pay attention to. And then it's up to us to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t.

"Loving people live in a loving world. Hostile people live in a hostile world. Same world." ~ Wayne Dyer


Looking for beauty has the potential to inspire you to overcome the sadness and disappointments you're certain to face in the bumpy road ahead. Beauty can bring peace, comfort and a sense of contentment.

Finding Beauty

Beauty is a feeling we get from the things we encounter. It's a mental experience. We can find beauty in a poem, a book, a sunrise, an expression...

and we can find it in a forest or a Lake. We can find beauty in the sound of laughter, music, art, dance, theater, or a moving creek. We can feel beauty in the warmth of sunshine or in the generosity of another. Just as Carl Jung said, all these things produce the feelings we give to them.

"Beauty's in the eye of the beholder."

When I'm not out and about with my camera searching for beauty, the beauty comes and finds me, much like Elaine Scarry said. I feel it when I walk among the mighty Juniper trees of Olympic Valley. Their magnificence shifts my way of thinking, my way of moving through the world. They reinforce my connection with all living things. They teach me the virtues of resilience and fortitude.

Sharing Beauty

My wife, Nicola, and I enjoyed a Mountain Top Church Service on top of Big Blue in Olympic Valley this past Sunday. The service was led by our friend and ski chaplain, Shawn Field.

"It's so God!"

We experienced beauty on a whole new level. We were high on the mountain on a cold and windy afternoon absorbed by nature overlooking Lake Tahoe. The topic of the service was the center of the Bible, Psalm 118.

As we listened and looked around, Nicola and I realized we found our "center" and she said, "It's so God!"

Shawn Field (in photo above, on right, and below on left) shared beauty with us.

Nicola and I are doing what we love in the company of those who love what we do, in the place we want to do it - together. For me, that's the pinnacle of success. That's literally being "at the top."

My experience engaging with trees and spirituality and being "at the top" may not be the same for you.

Rest assured, in case you didn't know, your beauty's out there eager to be discovered. It's waiting for you in some form or another.

“According to the Talmud, every blade of grass has its own angel bending over it, whispering, 'Grow, grow.'" ~ Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith

Poems end, authors die, sunrises fade. Flowers wilt. Faces wrinkle. Colors dull.

Life happens.

Leonardo Da Vinci, arguably among the most curious and gifted minds of all time, said the average human “looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odor or fragrance, and talks without thinking.” His assessment, centuries later, is an invitation to improve our senses and our minds and experiences along the way.

Beauty is everywhere, always... demanding to be discovered. It's there to encourage us through the sadness and disappointments we're sure to face sooner or later. If we look for beauty we'll find it, just as my daughter Morgan did on the beaches of Big Sur (photo below).

Let your education and experiences give you hope for beauty.

Don't aspire to be the most interesting person in the room, be the most interested. Be the most curious.

Life happens. But don't wait for it to happen.

Let the hope for beauty stir you out of bed in the morning and nudge you through the day. It's nourishment for the soul. And sharing what you find beautiful through your words, actions and thoughts is a way you can improve the quality of life for yourself and others.

Don't wait for life to happen.

Make life happen.


I’m Michael Kennedy, Olympic Valley, CA resident, married to Nicola Kennedy (in photo above). I’m a premium ghostwriter and photographer. I just want to say thanks for your attention - I appreciate it in such a noisy world. If you enjoyed it, please share with others.

It means a lot to me and it helps others see the story.

If you're interested in owning any photos in my gallery: click here, call or text me at 530.608.9150. Let me know what size you want, and I'll send a quote. My email: 

137 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 commentaire

19 févr.

Love it.

bottom of page