That was the saying above the theater that WNEP occupied for a couple of years on the corner of Halsted and Belmont.
It meant a lot of things in those six words.
You are not not exempt, as an audience member, from being required to participate.
Nothing in the content within the walls (and minds of the creators) is sacrosanct. Nothing is out of bounds. All sacred cows will be skewered, roasted and eaten rare.
We are artists and we are not somehow the world's very precious tellers of truth. Likewise, your opinion of our work means only as much as we allow it.
It meant that YOU (and WE) are not special.
The educator called the graduating students “pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble wrapped... nudged, cajoled ... feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie.”
“Contrary to what your U9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you … you’re nothing special,” he said in his speech, published in the Boston Herald.
McCullough rattled off statistics, saying numbers were stacking up against the graduating class. He said half of the class would be divorced and life wasn’t going to revolve around their every whim.
"Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools. That's 37,000 valedictorians ... 37,000 class presidents ... 92,000 harmonizing altos ... 340,000 swaggering jocks ... 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs," McCullough said in his speech.
He added: "Even if you're one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you."
And I'll add that no matter how special you think you are, you're dying one minute at a time.
You're talented and driven? Get in line.
You're beautiful physically? Wait a coupla years and see how age will diminish that youthful exterior.
Your sadness and heartache is overwhelming? Welcome to the club. Teenage girls are in charge of angst and over dramatizing its Universe Spinning Importance.
You have low self esteem issues? Who the fuck doesn't?
Everyone farts, shits, jerks off, is lonely, is happy, is young then old, has insurmountable problems, is discriminated against in some way, knows the pain of being left out or betrayed or lied to, feels better after a haircut or doing a load of laundry, feels judged, judges, and wonders why everyone else's life is SO MUCH BETTER.
I read an article recently about earth shattering movies and it got me thinking a lot about the Harold Ramis movie Groundhog Day. It's a genuinely funny Bill Murray vehicle and has some incredibly funny moments but it is a hugely funny film that has an unusual message that other Hollywood comedies never come close to in the promotion of romantic love or man boys growing up.
Murray plays Phil Connors, a Pittsburgh news reporter who believes he is above everyone. He believes he is special and important and looks down at anyone and everyone in his path - his cameraman (Chris Elliott in a role I can watch him in and not feel like punching him in the nuts), his producer (Andie McDowell), the town elders, the waitresses, the townsfolk - everyone. And he begins reliving the same day. I read somewhere that, if mathematically calculated, Phil relives February 2nd for over 30 years.
He commits suicide over and over. He sleeps with every remotely available woman. He robs the banks. And then he decides that his producer is his way out. That if she falls in love with him, he will move on to February 3rd. And he gets to the point where he has won her heart (in a fake and manipulative manner) and...he is STILL stuck in purgatory.
And he decides, while he is there, to access his natural curiosity about the world and learn things. To play piano. To ice sculpt. To cook. And then he starts helping people - changing the tire that always goes flat, catching the kid that always falls from the tree. And he begins to love the people around him. He sees them as fully realized human beings. He no longer feels that he is special; he sees that in this town of hicks and rubes that he is, in fact, the least of them all. That they are special and he is common.
And only then does he fall in love and that love is returned and he wakes up on February 3rd. Which is, coincidentally, my birthday.
It's profound, right? (Not the fact that Feb. 3 is my birthday but the rest of it...)
McCullough ended his commencement speech telling the class they were not special thusly:
"The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you're not special. Because everyone is."
I'd change that last line.
The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you're not special. Because everyone ELSE is.
Maybe the saying over WNEP should have been amended to "Everything is Sacred, Except for YOU."