One month after Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor, was diagnosed with terminal cancer he made a stirring speech (Achieving your childhood dreams -transcript here) which has become an Internet sensation and the basis for a book, The Last Lecture.
Randy Pausch takes questions from Time Magazine readers in this interview.
This is 10 Questions.We’re here with doctor Randy Pausch. Thank you doctor Pausch for spending the time with us today.
In New Orleans Katherine wrote in and asked if you believe that you, somehow, were chosen to be this messenger, to be, what she said, a messenger of hope.
Gosh. I've never really thought about that. You know, to me it's… you know, I attributed it to bad luck and nothing else. Certainly if I had the choice I'd give it all back if I could, you know, give the cancer back with it. I mean I'm glad I'm, you know, making the best of a bad situation but I'd certainly rather not have been in a bad situation start with.
From Tokyo, a reader wanted to if there's a kind of music or a type of music that you sort of turn to for comfort. They were looking for specific songs. What's on your iPod?
Well, my kids and I love to listen to Sergeant Pepper and certainly when you're going through chemotherapy you can’t listen to the theme from Rocky too many times.
Muhammad in Saudi Arabia wanted say that Einstein once said ‘It’s a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.’ What would you say to that?
That reminds me of Mark Twain: ‘Don't let your schooling get in the way of your education’. One of the things I always tell all of my students is that they should spend their time in whatever way helps them learn and that I'm perfectly happy if they cut my class because they were doing something that was a better use for their time. I mean, there've been times when there was some guest lecture on campus and I would, you know, I would very happily tell my students, “look this guy's better than me”. And sometimes I would cancel my class and say “we should all go listen to other person”.
In Lagos a writer had written in about something that you also talk about in your book, which is the idea of your wife remarrying. I think his wording was, if you've given permission in some way, emotional permission to do that.
Well, first off it's not my permission to give and the second thing is that I want my wife to be happy and if she finds that happiness through remarriage, that's wonderful. If she finds that happiness without remarriage, that's wonderful. I mean, it's not my place to have a role in that decision other than to tell her that if it's something that’s somehow emotionally overhanging for her, then whatever she does is fine by me and that, you know, that's certainly a specific message that I have and will leave for my children, which is that, you know, if the time comes we're Jay should remarry, you, kids, may have a lot of mixed feelings about that. You're entitled to them all. But if you're wondering how dad felt, dad wants mom to be happy.
What hopes do you have for your children?
I'm a college professor. I see the train wrecks that arrive in my office when a child has desperately been trying to fulfil the dreams that their parents wanted for them. I don't have specific dreams for my children. I have a tremendous hope that they will have dreams, that they will work hard, that they will chase them, and they will try to do something worthwhile with their lives. But I personally believe that the worst thing you can do for your children is say, “my dream for you is to do X”, because, boy, if you aren’t lucky enough to pick what would have been their natural inclination, desire, you just set up a situation of tremendous tension that may not work out well.
Someone, who's facing brain a cancer, and he says here wanted to be an artist but ended up in IT has, by his account, three or so months to live and his basic question was “what the hell do I do?”
Everybody's situation is unique. From his description, I’d bet on art school.
Your father is really… he's a big character in the book in a lot of ways. And the things you say about him are pretty remarkable. I just wonder if you just tell me, you know, what your take away from him is and what you've tried to emulate from him.
Oh, that you ought to be trying to have fun with every single thing that you do and you ought to be thinking hard about what you can do that helps others. It's such a simple observation. I mean, I love the movie Groundhog Day, you know, this Bill Murray throwaway comedy is a perfect metaphor on life, and he goes through all the stages. You know, he goes through self-pity and self-absorption. And then, over time, he realizes that spending his time helping other people is what provides him with satisfaction. And, you know, I just love that. It’s just a lovely comedic metaphor but it it's absolutely true.