Taber Presents "Last Lecture"

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.

Love Will Conquer Everything

Imagine your favorite professor is planning on retiring and she or he has the chance to impart one last bit of wisdom.

Sybol Anderson, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, was given the opportunity to do just that (though she is not retiring—we promise).

The Last Lecture Series is organized by Nitze Scholars and gives student-selected professors the opportunity to give a lecture on the topic they are most passionate about without the hassle of retirement or death.

Anderson’s lecture on Feb. 10, entitled “Love is How We Make It” addressed the relationship between romantic love and other concepts that help shape our world.

“We don’t talk enough about love,” started Anderson, clarifying that the songs heard on the radio are not a good indication.

She explained that “love is how we make it” is meant in two ways: “You want love?” she asked, “Make love … And be a good lover in and out of the bedroom.”

The second meaning that was more central to her discussion was that “love is the way we’re going to make it out of every problem we face, individually and socially.”

Anderson sees love in the second sense taking many forms: respect, recognition, solidarity and finally intimacy and affection. All forms of love would help to heal social ailments, she said.

She proceeded to ask the room full of people to engage in an exercise with her.

She asked audience members to stare into another person’s eyes: “Just really seeing another person is a profound … form of intimacy that can be transformative,” she said.

Audience members seemed to feel the same.

“Even though I don’t know her, I began to feel like I had known her for all my life,” said one person. Another added that staring into his partner’s eyes made him feel more comfortable asking questions.

In the end, Anderson asked that all of the audience members take the forms of love experienced in their relationships and bring them out into the community.

“If we … made St. Mary’s a community in which intimacy, solidarity, recognition, and respect were normal practices,” Anderson said, “we [would] go into the great wide world, generating solidarity, recognition, and respect.”

Anderson’s last lecture concluded with a video she composed with the help of several students, faculty, and staff members.

Entitled “Real Love,” the video showed clips of people smiling into the camera, friends hugging and others enjoying each other’s company throughout campus.

Anderson concluded the lecture with a playful demand, “So go! Make love!”