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I’m what is called a “reflective skeptic” which is to say that I don’t take anything as absolutely right or true until I’ve had a chance to look at it, assess it, think about it and reflect on it. Sounds complicated but honestly, it’s automatic at this point and doesn’t take up any more time than it needs to. In the end, I may come to embrace whatever it is I’m looking at – a philosophy, an idea, a diet plan – but that’s after I’ve checked it out. Works so well that if I were the proselytizing type, I’d be pushing this approach on everyone. Mainly I use it to counter the effect of so many different people claiming that what’s good and right for them will also be what’s good and right for you.

The point of my little introduction is that when my friends told me to check out a YouTube lecture by a professor named Randy Pausch, who was dying of pancreatic cancer, I was hesitant. I mean, “Tuesdays with Morrie” about Mitch Albom’s  time with his dying professor, is a sweet book but I’m not sure life lessons are all they’re cracked up to be. However, after reading in a USA Today interview that Pausch, when asked if his lecture was based Albom’s book, admitted he’d never read it, then cracked that he didn’t know there was a “dying-professor” section in the bookstore, I went to look at the video.

Dr. Pausch – he was a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University – was the kind of teacher I would have loved. His work in virtual reality earned him awards from academic and industry groups. He even got a chance to design a ride for Disney. But it was his lecture on how to live when you know you’re going to die that earned him an audience of millions.  Practical, not saccharine, honest and humorous, he was as inspirational as any self-help guru or lifestyle proponent and much, much funnier.

Randy Pausch died yesterday. Death doesn’t offer happy endings for the living, which means his wife and young children have to go on without him. But what a wonderful gift he’s left them – and us. Thanks, man.

PS – The title of the post is a reference to the opening song from the musical “Zorba!” by Kander and Ebb; the first line of the theme song is “Life is what you live while you’re waiting to die.”

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