Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Last Lecture

Since I finished up my video editing last week, I've been busy compiling DVDs of all the projects that I have completed these past few months. Anyone who has ever done video editing and compilations knows that there is a lot of downtime when the computer is importing videos or encoding files for DVDs. I like to multitask and hate to have nothing to do while I wait the sometimes hours that it takes for the processing to finish. It's been a week of light rain, drizzle and intermittent pouring rain here in Enschede, so there really hasn't been much to do outside. A few days ago, while I began what I knew would be a particularly long session of video processing, I read a book that my parents gave to me and each of my brothers this past Christmas called The Last Lecture.

It might be old news for some readers, but I was not familiar with story of Randy Pausch and his "last lecture" to students and faculty at Carnegie Mellon University in 2007. Randy was diagnosed with very aggressive cancer and given only a few months to live and decided that he wanted to spend each remaining day doing things that he loved. One of the things he loved the most, besides his family, was teaching. He prepared a presentation covering the ways that he learned to fulfill his childhood dreams.

After the lecture, Randy worked with a co-author to expand on some of the topics that he discussed in his Last Lecture. I'm an avid reader but I've never cared much for inspirational books because they always seem very hokey and far too mystical. I thought I'd give the book a chance though since it was a gift from my parents. It turned out to be very moving for me primarily because I could relate to it on an academic level. I could relate to so many of Randy's anecdotes about his childhood curiosity for learning as well as his creative imagination. I particularly liked his story about painting an elevator door on his wall as a kid because I did the same thing for many of the same reasons. This is definitely the inspirational book for a scientist. There's no new age hocus-pocus or mumbo-jumbo, only relateable character-building experiences that I feel will be very useful as I go forward in life. I've never been one to read a book with a highlighter, but I found myself marking many useful passages that I plan to refer to throughout my life.

Today, while waiting for more videos to encode for a DVD, I watched the video of Randy's Last Lecture and really enjoyed it, although I feel glad to have read his thoughts in the book first. And to be clear, the book is more than just a text version of his lecture. It really fleshes out his perspective on life better than he could do in a relatively short presentation. I definitely recommend reading the book first, but in the case that you don't have the time to invest, you should at least watch the video the next time you have an hour and fifteen minutes to spare.


Cari said...

Hey Wes! I saw Randy's lecture quite some time ago and it's amazing. We've bought the book, but I haven't had time to read it yet. Now I am looking forward to it even more. On a side note, I don't know if you know this or not, but the makers of the new Star Trek movie heard about what a huge fan of Star Trek he was, and that one of his dreams had been to play Spock. Obviously they couldn't let him play Spock, but they invited him to the set, gave him his own costume, and he actually has one line in the movie. I thought that was about the coolest thing anyone could have done for him!

Wes Raine said...

Cari, I didn't know that about the new Star Trek movie! I'll have to look for Randy when I see the movie again! Thanks for the info!