TAKEAWAYS FROM RANDY PAUSCH’S “LIVING” LEGACY. 


What starts, ends. As it is with anything in life, so it with life. Friedrich Nietzsche had an interesting take on this.

“The end of a melody is not its goal: but nonetheless, had the melody not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable.”

 Countless times the end overshadows the present, the now. As with life, all is forgotten as one plunges into the gloom and macabre of the impending mortality. Why not enjoy the melody while it plays?

This takeaway is from Randy Pausch’s, The Last Lecture. Randolph Pausch, better known as Randy Pausch (October 23, 1960-July 25, 2008) was an American computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the time he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and later the next year, he was given a terminal diagnosis. 

For many, this learning might be the doorway to the death-depression phase but not Pausch. Suffice it to say he focused his remaining days on living just as he had always done. 

“This is what it is. We can’t change it. We just have to decide how we’ll respond. We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”

It wasn’t the denial of the fast approaching end but the vigor to leave enough of him behind for his loved one’s. Needless to say that circle got expanded to more than just his loved one’s. The title may be indicative of the somber but the book is more likely to leave  one in splits. However, the wisdom of it all catches up with one. So, nothing is lost. 

No matter how bad things are, you can always make them worse.”


His emphasis and the importance he attached to childhood dreams remains the best that one can takeaway from this piece, besides other things. Amongst his many childhood obsessions, the one with Star Wars, more particularly Captain Kirk remains dominantly evident throughout his lectures. And when most of us can question,

Think about it. If you have seen the TV show, you know that Kirk was not the smartest guy on the ship. Mr. Spock, his first officer was the always-logical intellect on board.”


He has his case ready,

So what was Kirk’s skill set? Why did he get to climb on board the Enterprise and run it? The answer: There is this skill set called “leadership.”

Randy Pausch did not lose sight of his childhood dreams. The passion emanates, so much so, that one starts to feel it almost inadvertently. Something on a similar tangent was the song by Survivor, Eye of the Tiger, that was also used as the theme song by writer, and director of Rocky III, Sylvester Stallone.

“So many times it happens too fast            You trade your passion for glory                 Don’t lose your grip on the dreams of the past                                                                      You must fight just to keep them alive.     It’s the eye of the tiger                                    It’s the thrill of the fight.”

That is the biggest takeaway. 

Having been a professor for almost his entire life, excepting a sabbatical where he served as a Disney Imagineer, he had a very different view of what an educator must impart in terms of education to their pupils. 

“In the end, educators best serve students by helping them be more self-reflective. The only way any of us can improve is if we develop a real ability to assess ourselves. If we can’t accurately do that, how can we tell if we are getting better or worse?”

So much of the real, tangible learning is lost in between the more organised idea of education. Another noteworthy idea is that of the “Dutch Uncle.”

“There is an old expression, ‘a Dutch uncle’ which refers to a person who gives you honest feedback. Few people bother doing that nowadays, so the expression has started to feel outdated, even obscure.”

Pausch’s Dutch uncle turned out to be his mentor Andy van Dam who have him his honest opinion when required of which Pausch writes,

“I had strengths that were also flaws. In Andy’s view, I was self-possessed to a fault, I was way too brash and I was an inflexible contrarian, always spouting opinions.”

This book is so much about life and living that it is difficult to reconcile with the fact that it was inspired by death. It is only towards the end when Pausch’s wife whispers to him mid of a lecture “Please don’t die” that one finally realizes what this journey has been about. 

Pausch manages to get his point through because not once does one think about the end of the book, just the now. 

Also, his lecture on time management given at the university of Virginia is worth all the time. He blatantly accepts that this lecture gets it inspiration from books  already written of which Stephen R. Covey’s, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People finds a special mention.

And, finally, to sum it all up,

“It’s not about how to achieve your dreams. It’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.”


Takeaways from Arnold Bennett’s deliberations on serious reading. 

Takeaways from Arnold Bennett’s deliberations on serious reading. 

 

Man, since time immemorial, has found a steady companion in the exercise of reading.Whether to brush away a distressed hour or to awaken sensations in an idle one, he has, time and again relied on its comforting powers. It would be a safe assumption to make, henceforth, that reading has served as a certain form of evasion where domestic and other affairs were left far behind.
From an aspiring writer to a budding actor to a number-crunching accountant to a neurologist (and at this point Oliver Sacks crosses one’s mind), a considerable part of the existence has found solace in its environs. The birth of the Austens and the Brontes, the prose and the poetry, the paperbacks and hardcovers and in the recent times to the more advanced idea of e-books have served the inadequacy, if any.

However, it is also as much a matter of baffling uncertainty to be living in times where there is no dearth of reading material and no serious concerns regarding accessibility, whatsoever. The ever burgeoning to-be-read bookshelf stares write down and holds one in contempt for having sat there since forever. This, specially, being the case with heavy reads. The undeniable urge to satiate our appetite with a Nicolas Sparks and leave Fyodor Dostoevsky be, collecting dust, rules the better parts of us.

Today’s takeaway is from Arnold Bennett‘s How to live on 24 hours a day  published in 1910 as a part of larger volume titled How to Live.  This piece has stood the test of time and many have hailed it as perfection. But truly, no art is bereft of criticism and, therefore, not much attention should be paid to that sort of judgement.

However, there are certain interesting takes among which “serious reading” is one.

For the light readers, the first line itself would serve as a deterrent to go any further.

And then the immediate defence,

Reading, for the most parts, is considered as an act of entertainment by many. And from this idea stems the need   for something that does not result in much strain on the faculties. But, that is, precisely why reading will never serve its actual purpose.

Bennett believed that if one aims at growth, one’s reading habits should not be limited to prose. Poetry, in his opinion, is the door that leads to the cultivation of mind.

His polite urges to consider poetry even if it has not been one’s preferred form of reading is compelling. He, however, does not impose his choices as the be all and end all of growth and recognizes and the beauty and genius of other forms.

In the modern times, reading has become more of a random affair than a concentrated one. We move from divorce news to celebrity spats to local scuffles to book reviews to cinematic releases within a matter of minutes. Binge reading is in vogue where one wolfs down one book after another. Now that’s fairly understandable but this involves fast reading and skipping which completely kills the purpose. Reading and contemplation should go hand in hand.

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The brain, usually, registers masterpieces as something scary. The chances of it advocating Milton over Dickens are bleak. However, Bennett takes a completely different stand on the issue.

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The book also seeks to explore Literature, arts, philosophy and self-discipline which rest at the core of this piece. A definitive read if 24 hours are not serving their purpose for you.

Happy reading..!

Takeaways from Helen Keller’s beautiful reflection on Optimism.

Takeaways from Helen Keller’s beautiful reflection on Optimism.

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Pessimism is an idea which, more often than not, steals away the best of us. Serving an obstruction to the vision, it renders the path hazy. Alongside it thrives a more potent, yet usually obscured idea of optimism. Often our minds are so clogged with darkness that any attempt at light is met with adamant refusal. And not just that, it is all but laughed and ridiculed as an idea filled with stupidity and insanity. The failure to see beyond what the sight has to offer keeps us sadly rooted to our positions, both in mind and life. And then once in a while we stumble upon a profound read which opens the recesses of our minds to the brightness of an idea as abysmal as optimism.

Helen Keller, born June 27, 1880, in Tuscambia, Alabama wrote one such magnificent piece titled Optimism. Her essay seeks to explore and discover this undeniable but elusive force on the internal as well as the external and later aiming to propagate the practice of the same.

Keller commences by reflecting upon the never ending quest for happiness and how it is supposed to be fulfilled in attainments both materialistic and otherwise inclining often towards the former.

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She touches upon the same later in the second part of the essay where she goes on to say,

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And her unquestioning  belief in the ideal, she writes, stems from her own acquaintance with darkness. Keller who was rendered both blind and deaf after she contracted a disease which was described as an “acute congestion of the stomach and brain”, wrestled for a long time with the demons that possessed her while making sense of and peace with her deprivations. And, thus, her appeal,

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While Keller searched for optimism within, she discovered that her faith found standing in “literature, philosophy, religion and history”.

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For so many of us who get rattled by the mysteries of life, philosophy could be refuge. There is always more than we see and to be able to harbor the kind of optimism that says we perceive just a tiny fragment of an otherwise large story would free our faculties of the unnecessary strain we subject it to.

Keller also stresses on the importance of education in lifting the veil of fear and doubt. She recognises the role education has played in pulling the deaf and blind from the darkness they had been plunged into. A journey, not easy, but worth it. The initial difficulty it faced was the result of their own pessimism that hindered progress. We are, often, held back by our own beliefs more than anything else.

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On the other hand she hails the optimistic spirit of Hauey even in the face of pessimism.

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And then again,

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Keller, in her, autobiography, The Story of My Life, while penning down her love for literature wrote, “Literature is my Utopia”. Her undying love for the same resonates in this piece of her writing too as she talks about Shakespeare and Brown and Carlyle and their contributions to this unrelenting force.

Optimism is more about “We can” that “We will” for the latter establishes a dangerous theory of  optimism which is blinding and Keller calls it “false optimism” . In this context, while giving a fair warning, she writes,

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She closes her argument in the favor of optimism with the following line which echoes her hopes for a beautiful future..

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Happy reading…!