Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

brief candle

May 8, 2010

It wasn’t the Friday it was supposed to be, grading from dawn to dusk, and so it will be a grading weekend. Forrest was right, you never know what you’re gonna get.

Before heading down the pike once more to administer one last exam, the one flooded out on Monday, I stopped by the radiologist’s for my latest close-up. Just need to confirm that this barking hack isn’t my old pneumococcal nemesis back for a return engagement. Fingers crossed.

Then, gratefully released back into the light I had to take a moment to inspect the Richland Creek Greenway behind the radiology lab. The flood’s damage there was extensive. Damn. But the  good news: they’re at work constructing a new path that will extend to Knob Road.

Before finally giving that final final, there were three final report presentations to hear. Tanasha’s on Darwin gave me an excuse to mention “Darwin Got it Goin On,” which I’d just tweeted about, and to remind everyone that Darwinism and Social Darwinism are two different critters. Most students have been misinformed, usually by pastors and pietists, about that.

Then, to the Dean’s memorial service not far from school. Not surprisingly, the turnout was huge. He was a Dean’s Dean, up from our ranks but still one of us. It was a delight to meet his twin brother Tom McDaniel, whose eulogy was the highlight of the service.

There were a couple of lowlights I must report. One was the pew-mate who took offense at my colleague’s and my brief pre-service conversation, inspired by the Dean’s love of baseball. The Dean would not have understood or endorsed her protest, I’m guite sure.

Another was the hollow sanctimony of the officiating minister. All those smug, desperate, incredible assurances that mortality is a fiction. I wish the Dean had written the service.He did write his own obituary:

Having lived ‘the examined life’ with animated good humor, Dr. McDaniel leaves behind few regrets and many memorable moments… Teaching Shakespeare’s tragedies for four decades left him with the distinct impression that almost everyone dies in the end, though he had hoped that perhaps in his case an exception would be made.

But not really. A good Shakespearian, like a good Confucian or a good Taoist or a good Humanist, knows better than to seek light from an expired wick.

But he also knows that there are other candles. Like me, the Dean walked every day past a tablet on our campus– located near the historic Walnut Grove, the stand of trees germinated by seeds harvested at George Washington’s Mount Vernon– bearing the Plutarchian wisdom that “the mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be lighted.”  Our good friend John lighted many fires.

Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more.

One of our very best players has left the stage. Those of us still on it who bade farewell to our friend and teacher yesterday are very fortunate to have studied with a master. Our tomorrows will creep less pettily for the privilege.

Postscript. We were also privileged, last night, to bask in the impressive collective wattage of Younger Daughter and her peers at the 5th grade “Cafe Night” talent show. One candle dims, countless others flare up. The future looks bright.