Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Last Lecture and Evangelical UUism

Randy Pausch, who gave the "Last Lecture" and became an internet sensation, died recently. I learned that he was a UU when it was posted on the UUA's website. I suspected he might be a UU while reading his book of the Last Lecture, however. Sadly, the reasons I suspected it were that he mentioned his church but didn't say what his church was, and he mentioned his faith, but didn't mention what his faith was. He says in the book, "I was raised by parents who believed that faith was something very personal. I didn't discuss my specific religion in my lecture because I wanted to talk about universal principles that apply to all faiths--to share things I had learned through my relationships with all people." I think if he was Christian and his faith had helped him in his battle with cancer, he wouldn't hesitate to say so.

It's a sad commentary on our faith when you suspect someone is a UU because they specifically don't say so.

This is not to be disparaging at all to Pausch. He had every right to speak about his religion or not speak about it, in keeping with what felt comfortable for him. But I am saying that we need to, as a whole, be a bit more evangelical about our faith. After all, our faith does address universal principles that apply to all faiths. And it's a lost opportunity for our faith when someone in the public eye like Pausch doesn't identify publically with our religion, especially when, again like Pausch, he's addressing and embodying universal principles that our faith stands for.

I don't agree with everything Pausch said in his lecture. And I found myself somewhat disliking him while reading the book. Perhaps that is because he is a Tigger and was someone disparaging towards what he referred to as "a sad sack Eeyore." I know and love the Tiggers of this world--my husband is one--but I am an Eeyore, so I resented his characterization. But Pausch's overwhelming optimism is infectious, even if I think he doesn't cut enough slack to the people who have experienced brick walls as true barriers, not as, as he puts it, there to separate out the ones who truly want it from the ones who don't. His engaging honesty when he calls himself a reformed jerk, and the life lessons he imparts about how we should really treat each other are worth listening to.

Pausch is Emersonian self-reliance at its best. But if he just left it there, I would have to take more issue with him. He doesn't. One of his points is "Be a Communitarian," in which he says, "Everyone has to contribute to the common good. To not do so can be described in one word: selfish."

It's clear from watching and reading Pausch he lived by these words, and that his death is a loss to the world, to our faith, and most importantly, to those that he loved.

If you haven't seen the last lecture, you can view it here:

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