The last lecture

Here’s a question that should make any of us think: if you were you to give one last lecture or presentation, what would you say? Presumably you wouldn’t hold anything back, you would share your deepest passions and convictions… but how to use that precious time? What really is your own special contribution to the human discourse?

And of course, the fleeting nature of our lives being as they are, those are not purely hypothetical questions. Carpe diem and all that…

Gardner Campbell has faced up to the challenge, offering up a “first draft” (thankfully) of what that lecture might be. Anyone who knows Gardner will not be surprised to hear that music, poetry and a mania for learning are the core components. The opening section is sheer brilliance. And the rich interweaving of song lyrics, poetic fragments, and Gardner’s own overflowing eloquence brings to mind Jonathan Letham’s wonderfully constructed Harper’s essay The Ecstasy of Influence.

Anyone who reads this blog knows my respect, admiration and affection for Gardner. I’ve had immense and mind-bending fun talking and arguing music with him on far too few occasions. So naturally this talk rocks my world in a very, very big way. (Though it still doesn’t change my mind about Steely Dan, sorry.)

I’ll shut up and urge you to listen to the thing (33:03, 19MB MP3) — gotta love how the time duration evokes 33 and a third. One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is what great fun it is.

I don’t know what my own last lecture would be. But I am grateful to Gardner for once again inspiring me to think a little deeper about my profession and what’s most important to me, while delighting me and giving me something to aspire to…

2 thoughts on “The last lecture

  1. I think everyone in this space should think their last lecture is right now. Talk like Gandhi. I might be holding a little bit back at times but I’m getting there.

  2. Oh… I like this idea- seems related to the “what do I want them to say at my funeral idea.”

    Wow, I’m going to give it a try. It would be one long lecture.

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