We are grocers. We are farmers, lawyers, caregivers, chefs, pilots, doctors and businesspeople. We are athletes, politicians, clergy, bankers, therapists, distillers, teachers and carpenters. Although the list is nearly infinite, we all share a single need – to know what we do matters. Certainly, it matters to us. This is how we have spent our lives. If we are lucky, we are good at it. And we enjoy it. We take ownership. We find pride.
Often, we encourage those in our influence to work in our field. Mr. McGuire reminded young Benjamin, “I want to say it in one word to you, just one word — plastics. There is a great future in plastics. Think about it.” Ultimately, we learn, the teenaged protagonist in the iconic 1967 film “The Graduate” was not interested in commercial advice but rather the wife of his father’s business partner. Still, McGuire makes the point. He is interested in plastics; therefore, the boy should be as well.
We hope to impart to those we love our accumulated wisdom. If they go into the family business, we can help them – and they can praise us for our good choices (“Plastics!”). We all imagine that the best and brightest should join our profession. We opine, “Doctors save lives.” “Clergy save souls.” “Distillers save spirits.” Be like us. Study like us. Think like us. Many professors encourage their best students to be professors. The academics were good students and became professors. Their parents were good students and became professors. What else could a good student be? Isn’t anything else less? A waste?
When Benjamin passes on plastics, is he insulting McGuire’s choice or simply preferring another one – namely, a daydream about Mrs. Robinson? Is a perfect preference for us perfect for anyone else? Can we embrace someone else’s choice without doubting our own?