The Last Lecture Series, started by St. Mary’s College students in 2006, seeks to provide select faculty members, chosen each semester by students, the chance to impart some of their wisdom on the campus community. It is intended to celebrate knowledge and inspire audiences to live their best lives.
This semester, Michael Taber, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, accepted the challenge. On Thursday, Nov. 10, Taber delivered a lecture entitled, “On Being Wisely Selfish.” Daugherty Palmer Commons was packed with students, faculty members, and St. Mary’s county residents awaiting Professor Taber’s “last lecture.”
Junior Jacob Silver, a long time student of Taber’s and the student responsible for convincing him to take part in the Last Lecture Series, introduced Taber. He described him as “well-received and thoughtful,” and a man who puts more emphasis into “thinking than knowing.” Taber approached the podium and the audience seemed instantly captivated.
As he looked out on the many faces looking up at him, he said, “I wonder if the rest of you aren’t here by some mistake.” The lecture was a mix of moments of erupting laughter and some of quiet. Taber imparted some of his wisdom through stories not his own.
He spoke from memory Robert Frost’s, “Fire and Ice,” and summarized the myth of Echo and Narcissus, teaching the audience the, “ways in which the self can play an unhealthy role in relationships.” He advised students to, “tend to yourself by not restricting yourself to yourself,” that, “selflessness is not a virtue.”
While avoiding what Taber called, “purple dinosaur over-simplification,” he ended his lecture with lists of things in life he loves and those that he hates. He hates, “labels that display the names of manufacturers on clothing, litter, chunky shoes,” and “adding ‘machine’ to ATM and ‘number’ to PIN.”
He loves, “the scratchy, crunchy sound of gravel on a quiet path, the knowledge that the continents are moving around the globe, how the brightly colored leaves end up on the same ground with the dead brown ones, and that the moon is sometimes full and sometimes not.” He left the audience with some last words of wisdom: “Take work and relationships seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously.” And the audience left DPC with that in mind.