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Journal/Book Title/Conference

Utah State University Faculty Honor Lectures


Utah State University Faculty Association

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In defense of myself and the Honors Committee I accept this assignment as a tribute for something, possibly for setting a new record as a hunger artist or for simply staying in town and reciting the penitential psalms daily for over 40 years. I have a sneaking suspicion that they may be exposing me for not being creative in the Greek sense of fulfilling the promise of one's birth. If I had got around to writing Pericles' funeral oration, Dostoevsky's "Grand Inquisitor," or E. E. Cummings' "What if a Much of a Which of a Wind," as I fully intended to do, they surely wouldn't have asked me to give this speech. But they did, confirming my aphorism that life is what we fail to make it. I'll seek comfort in the observation of one of my students, that the nice thing about being mediocre is that you are always at your best; also in the realization that even the seven wise men of Greece would have made serious errors in judgment had they been functioning as a committee.

I have always been awed, and even disheartened, by the achievements, scholarship, and insights of many of my colleagues; and I wish that r could utter some memorable profundities on the mystery of it all, as they do so lucidly and finally. I would like to come up with even one thought worthy of being carved in stone. I know enough about politics to agree with the notion that Prometheus gave man all except political wisdom, which he reserved for the gods. I know enough about the social sciences to be aware of the changes in jargon that so often signify progress. I know enough about religion to sanction Kafka's belief that it is an inescapable fact of life and to add that it isn't any worse than we deserve.


This work made publicly available electronically on August 16, 2011.