Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Betsy Vardaman: Still More on the Professor

Here is Betsy listing only a few of Professor Vardaman's early morning informal, if impassioned lecture topics
[Jim] and I of course held rich exchanges upon wildly diverse topics, but all with intensity and detail -- and often before I had had my first cup of tea. I list here just a few of his sunrise lecture topics: the Magna Carta, Dunkirk; the HMS Calliope; the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution; Martin Luther; William Tyndale; Martin Luther King; the Huguenots; Vaclav Havel; the Netherlands' history of religious toleration; Palestinian and Jewish relations; Bosnia; William Faulkner; Kemal Ataturk; Czeslaw Milosz; Stalin; Hitler; the difference in Pilgrims and Puritans; Scotland's role in shaping US democracy; Quanah Parker; his admiration for Winston Churchill, William Gladstone and Oliver Cromwell; and every other aspect of the British Empire throughout history as well as the roots and derivations of just about every word in the OED.
This might look to you like a mere list of disorganized topics, but for those who knew him, an entire lecture on each of these and thousands more was instantly available to him if called for, and not because he had prepared in advance by memorizing lectures he had given before but because he knew history in such detail that he didn't need to prepare at all.

Everything was there in his mind, ready at a moment's notice to be crafted spontaneously into a lecture inscribed upon the air . . .



At 12:10 PM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

When someone with that much knowledge dies, I often find myself going back to Rutger Hauer's line from "Blade Runner," in which Hauer's character, Roy Batty, meditates on how death means the washing-away of experience: "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die." We are libraries of experience, and when we're gone, all the living have left are echoes and ripples that will also eventually fade.

At 6:13 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, it's sad, but you and I will always be back then.

Jeffery Hodges

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