We often find our heroes among our teachers. Randy Pausch was a Computer Science Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Within a year it was deemed terminal, and while the professor said he’s not opposed to miracles, he struggled to cope with a death sentence leaving his wife and his three young children. He explained that it was like “someone is going to push my family off a cliff. . . and I won’t be there to catch them, and that breaks my heart. But I have some time to sew some nets and cushion the fall and that seems like the highest use of my time. So I can curl up in a ball and cry or I can get to work on the nets.”
One of the nets Randy wove was a presentation he gave at Carnegie Mellon University. The University’s Last Lecture series is a one-hundred year tradition, asking professors to delve into what matters most for them. In Randy Pausch’s case, it was not an academic exercise, not a “what if” but a “what is” experience.
THE LAST LECTURE
by Randy Pausch
addresses not his dying, but his living; he lectures not about achieving your dreams, but about living your life so that your dreams come to you; he explains “You cannot change the cards you are dealt. Just how you play the hand.” And though the inspiring words are not new to us, the lived example is. Although the lecture has been published as a book, I encourage you to view the lecture online so you can, in a sense, meet the man behind these words of courage: “No matter how bad things are, you can always make things worse. At the same time, it is often within your power to make them better.” Many of the ideas will be familiar to you in part because Randy Pausch was a Unitarian Universalist. He embodied our theology that everyday we might be a hero in our own lives and in the lives of others. In an interview about his faith, he was asked what gives him hope. And Randy responded, “Well, I see so much goodness in so many people, and that has really been intensified by this experience.” As a beloved UU hymn says: “I’ll bring you hope, when hope is hard to find."
You can find the lecture here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo