Avuncular life lessons from 70-something actor and bestselling author Alda (Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned, 2005).
Nothing requires a person to summarize the essence of a meaningful life like being asked to write a commencement address, and Alda has given plenty over the years. Here, he recalls—and includes generous excerpts of—those commencement addresses, as well as eulogies and other speeches. Each chapter ends with some sort of moral or bit of wisdom about living the good life: You should love, rather than badger, your kids. Young folks today ought not fantasize about the countercultural ’60s, but should focus on being honest, because leading a life of decency is itself revolutionary. Whatever your profession, remember the “real lives at the other end of your ministrations.” Even for the rich and famous, the really important stuff is small: searching for sea glass with children, reminding your buddies not to take themselves too seriously. Alda is at his best when describing the transcendent joy of acting. A few weeks after 9/11, he joined hundreds of Broadway actors to film a television ad, singing “New York, New York” and declaring that the city was back in business. Compared to the work at Ground Zero, filming this ad seemed trivial—yet, he writes, “this is what we do, and doing it with all the energy we could give it had lifted us up” and helped inject color into “this wounded, gray city.” Eventually, much of the advice becomes stale and bromidic, as when Alda tells his daughter to “be true to herself.” Alda’s final words of advice—and even he jokingly admits that it’s a “platitude”—are laugh a lot, let your life be an adventure and don’t make yourself crazy looking for Meaning.
For Alda devotees and fans of Robert Fulghum.