Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Last Lecture

For the past few months, I have eyeballed The Last Lecture in stores, at the library and other places I have seen it. I had been wanting to read it, but I just always ended up reading other things. One of my daughter's teachers was reading it to them in class in short bits at a time (It has really short chapters). She, my daughter, prefers to read rather than be read to, so I grabbed the book a the library for her. Since it is short and it was there, I started reading. I just finished it last night. For those of you who haven't heard of it, it is basically the last lecture given by Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon. The topic was "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." What keeps the lecture moving is the knowledge we have that Randy Pausch has only a few months to live as he meanders his way through a battle with pancreatic cancer, a battle that finally took his life in July 2008.

The lecture is an easy read ( I read it in just 3 very short sittings) and is full of good advice for people of all ages. Pausch talks about marriage, children, career, persistence, and the importance of being honest with and about yourself. He also stresses the importance of teamwork and giving to others what you have been given by helping them achieve their childhood dreams. Overall, I liked the book and would recommend it. I laughed, smiled, and even cried at one point as I thought about my own life.
I was concerned, however, over one missing element in the book; for someone about to die and giving advice on life, it is a very important element.

I was reminded of a story I heard told several years ago:

A young man went to visit a much older man, a man he respected and would go to for advice. The old man asked, "So what are you going to do with your life?"

The young man answered, "Well, I think I am going to go to school and do the best I can in my classes."

"That's good," replied the old man. "Then what?"

"I'll have my college degree and I will get a good job."

"Okay, then what?"

"I'll work really hard at the job and move up the ladder."

"Then what?" the old man continued.

"I suppose I'll get married and have kids."

"That's great. Then what?"

"I' ll raise those kids, retire one day, and hopefully have grand kids."

"Grand kids are nice. Then what are you going to do?

"Well, I suppose I'll get older and then die."
"Then what?" asked the old man.

The young man looked confusedly at the old man's penetrating eyes. He then replied, "What do you mean, then what? I'll be dead."

The old man said, "Son, You haven't thought your life through far enough. I suggest you go take some time to think a little more about what happens after you die."

That is what is missing from The Last Lecture. I know the purpose was "Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" but if there is no hope of seeing again these people you've helped, then what's the point. He vaguely mentions faith toward the end, but it is unclear what he means, especially when he mentions "karma" at one point. I wish Pausch would have gone the next step, but he didn't. If he had, we probably wouldn't have "The Last Lecture" to read, especially if anything remotely Christian was revealed. That would have immediately kept Oprah and all the major media networks away and his little book would be in a little notebook on the shelf at home for his kids to read someday, as they wished their dreams would have included their father.


B in Florida said...

Thanks for sharing this. I've been aware of this book for some time now but have yet to read it. The only recent books I have time to read these days are textbooks which I have no desire to offer a review of.

I do have a recent "karma" story I will share though. A couple of weeks ago there was a group of kids working at my table and another at one nearby on their reader response. One of the ones at my table saw the word karma in his book and asked what it was. Before I could say a word a little girl at the next table piped up with, "Karma is when you do really something bad and God gets you for it."

B in Florida said...

Hey. Your almost as bad as I am at updating your blog. Your fans are waiting for something new.

Hope everything is going well for you. Stay in touch.