Last lecture to my Advanced Placement students

David - Strongsville, Ohio
Entered on May 21, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in lingering – long conversational digressions, and slow time spent hammocked on the deck. I believe in seed-time, the gradual germination of plants, personalities, ideas. I believe in starting more projects than I can finish, in the promise of unfinished business. Same goes for books. I believe in listening to the sound between the words, enjoying the view between the lines on the page. I believe in trees and dirt, and in waiting for leaves to decompose into mulch, for finches to return in spring. I believe that every word counts, makes a difference. I believe in chewing slowly, in being the last person to leave the table.

I believe in shopping online, enjoy waiting for new shoes to arrive. I believe in buying more music than I have time to listen to. I believe in old, slow motorcycles, whether they run or not. I believe in $20 harmonicas, $50 guitars and thirty year old tube amps. But as much as I believe in cool tools and machines, I believe people are more like plants than machines.

I believe that learning requires growth and change, and because most people have trouble with change, they also have trouble learning. I believe the key to learning is to let go and let be. Habitat is more important than habit. Roots go down whether we want them to or not. Discipline precedes structure but control’s a myth. I believe the good stuff is a paradox – that all of our days are the same length, but the more you do the longer they last. I believe that my war had better music than yours, that college is only one way to get an education, that learning is more about doing than listening. I believe that most people have to find things out for themselves, learn to read their own maps.

I believe that God is everywhere, but really favors old people and children. I believe that faith is the place beyond belief, just the other side of a mountain meadow in southwestern Colorado. I believe that most of what you really need starts with “B” – books, boots, beans, bread, beer, brats and Bozeman, the coolest place west of Athens. I believe that two wheels are better than four, and that feet are better than wheels. I believe that life is best lived at a walking pace, that it’s hard to know when to stop, and that you’ll never know when you’ve reached your last line. Like Kurt said, “So it goes.”

I still believe in heroes – Bob and John and Ed and Henry and Walt, Linda, our parents and all our kids. Like them, my strengths embody my weaknesses. I am patient and I procrastinate. I believe in the Yin and Yang, opposites that complement and complete. And I believe my job here is about sharing time and place and stories with cool people. And about believing that it’s the sharing that makes the difference, that when we share time and stories we learn to care about each other and our place. I believe that place is as important as poetry, that poems root us to our place. I believe my work is as much about launching lives as it is about teaching literature, about charting trajectories, and watching where you’ll land. This I believe.