Joss Whedon to Wesleyan Class of 2013: "You are all going to die"

The film director encouraged graduating students to accept the duality of human nature

Published May 28, 2013 8:51PM (EDT)

Over Memorial Day weekend, "Avengers" director Joss Whedon delivered the commencement speech to Wesleyan University's graduating class.

"So, what I’d like to say to all of you is that you are all going to die," he joked.

"This is a good commencement speech! Because I’m figuring … it’s got to go up from here, right? It can only get better. This is good. It can’t get more depressing. You have, in fact, already begun to die."

But the speech was ultimately uplifting, as Whedon illustrated that despite the body's propensity to death, our mind strives to create a fulfilling life. He used this as an entry point to encourage young adults to listen to the inherent contradictions in their thought and behavior:

You have, which is a rare thing, the ability and the responsibility to listen to the dissent in yourself. To at least give it the floor. Because it is the key, not only to consciousness, but to real growth.

To accept duality is to earn identity, and identity is something that you are constantly earning. It is not just “who you are,” it is a process that you must be active in.

And it’s not parroting your parents or even the thoughts of your learned teachers, it is, now more than ever, about understanding yourself so you can become yourself.

These contradictions, Whedon explains, are what will keep us from allowing the world to be divided into "Good, or bad. Black, or white. Blue, or red."

And recognizing those dualities will enable us to realize we can (and are) changing the world, says Whedon:

So here’s the thing about changing the world. It turns out that’s not even the question, because you don’t have a choice. You are going to change the world because that is actually what the world is.

You do not pass through this life, it passes through you. You experience it, you interpret it, you act, and then it is different. That happens constantly. You are changing the world. You always have been.

And now it becomes real on a level that it hasn’t been before.

By Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at

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