“The Last Lecture”

Three people have now sent me “The Last Lecture” by Carnegie-Mellon professor Randy Pausch, who is dying of inoperable pancreatic cancer. Pausch makes some good points, and does so with a grace and good humor I cannot imagine having in his circumstances. But–and I wish him the best, and do not mean to disparage him–I’m struck here, as I was with the enormous best-seller Tuesdays With Morrie, by how common-sensical are much of his comments, how unsurprising they are, or should be.

Of course we should spend more time with the people we love. Of course we should put family and friends and natural beauty above the pursuit of money and status. Of course, in the end, your friends and family care for you much more than the shareholders or law-firm partners or editors or union bosses you spent so much of your life trying to please.

What gives The Last Lecture, Morrie and similar works their power is the fact that their authors are dying–i.e., dying sooner than most of us hope we will. Though still alive, they’ve passed beyond the lunacy of the rat race and are here to tell us, once again, to get it straight while we can. What they want to tell us is not difficult to understand. It requires no degree in philosophy, no ability to fathom Kant or Heidegger.

And yet, no matter how many times we are reminded of what should be our correct priorities, we always need reminding again.  If you like, read more on Pausch or watch the lecture here .


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