Thursday, September 11, 2008

Randy Pausch Exits Stage Left

If you have not watched Randy Pausch's last lecture on You-Tube, I encourage you to watch it as soon as possible. It is simply amazing.Here it is: Grab hold. Take a listen.

I was not going to buy his book--as I am in the book disposal mode not in the book acquisition mode as I prepare for retirement--but I finally did break down and buy a copy. At least, I can gift it to someone after I read it. It is amazing, and even better in many ways than the lecture. It is the saddest book I have ever read. Much of what he probably could not have handled in a public forum because he would be come too emotional is here included. Stories about his last Christmas and New Year. His courtship of his wife. The birth of his children. These are all narrated with such love and poignancy that it is particularly heart wringing.

It is not something I find I can read in a single session. I have to read a chapter here and then a chapter there, not necessarily in the order written, but in the order they speak to me.

So what is it that makes Professor Pausch's lecture so amazing?

First it is the complete absence of self pity. Here is a man who has been told he has--at 47 years of age no less--only about six months to live because he has nearly always fatal pancreatic cancer. He is 47, has a beautiful wife, three young children, a promising career and everything on earth to live for. And he knows he is dying, a process which has now regrettably taken its course.

Second, it is the total dedication to having fun, "Edutainment" he called it. His approach to teaching programming as something else like story telling is one of those lightening bolts that is utterly transforming. It gives me hope that there is a possibility that the dark age predicted by Maggie Jackson and Bill McKibben in their prophetic new book Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age is not a necessity. The legacy he leaves is so hopeful so filled with good will and great fun, that one can only hope the Huns of this world will leave it alone and allow it to flourish.

Let us all struggle to be a bit more like Professor Pausch and take his lessons to heart.

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