The Freshness of a Dream

       O joy! that in our embers
Is something that doth live,
That nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!
The Last Lecture, a most unusual book is now widely available in paperback in India, at a special price of Rs 295. Written by Randy Pausch, a professor of computer science at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University, the book continues his "last lecture", given in September 2007, and which can be seen and heard on Youtube. A few hundred thousand people have, already.

The Last Lecture is a particular format at several US Universities where "Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can't help but mull the same question". Ironically, when Pausch was asked to give the talk, he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer that had affected his pancreas, and had been given a few months to live.

It is impossible not to be moved. Randy Pausch is 47 and will leave behind a young family. And in his talk, he spoke of the importance of childhood dreams, of enabling the dreams of others, and of overcoming obstacles, and of living. The book extends the lecture, talks of the circumstances around his present situation (you can follow his journey on his website, so one knows that he is still fighting...) and in a series of brief essays, gives his formulae for how best to conduct oneself.

Like much good advice, most of it is simple. Sometimes disarmingly so, but the genuineness of the man comes through on every page. Maybe it is simplest to live life through straightforward and simple axioms after all... How else, in the face of so obvious a tragedy, can one cope with so much dignity and so much grace?

The title of this post goes back to Wordsworth, from his moving and apt Ode on the Intimations of Immortality. There are other lines that I particularly like in the poem, and which seem appropriate, given the context.

          Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

If you would like to get this book and its not available nearby, write in.

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