Friday, September 21, 2007

The Last Lecture

(Hat tip: Mommy) The Wall Street Journal seems to be getting into Yom Kippur mode:
Schools such as Stanford and the University of Alabama have mounted "Last Lecture Series," in which top professors are asked to think deeply about what matters to them and to give hypothetical final talks. For the audience, the question to be mulled is this: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?

At Carnegie Mellon, however, Dr. Pausch's speech was more than just an academic exercise. The 46-year-old father of three has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months. His lecture, using images on a giant screen, turned out to be a rollicking and riveting journey through the lessons of his life.

They have a short embedded video along with the article with clips from his speech; it's a little nuts, looking at this seemingly perfectly healthy man and knowing he'll likely die within months. Some of the wisdom he imparted is excellent:
Flashing his rejection letters on the screen, he talked about setbacks in his career, repeating: "Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things."

He encouraged us to be patient with others. "Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you."

After showing photos of his childhood bedroom, decorated with mathematical notations he'd drawn on the walls, he said: "If your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let 'em do it."
Read it, watch it. Thinking about what we'd impart, what we'd want to do, should it be our own last lectures, last months is something worth keeping in mind often. Have a wonderful g'mar chasima tova. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for good.

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