Hail and farewell.

Philosophy and Nonsense      
(Thoughts about writing, education, and experience.)                                    Presented by Forrest D. Poston

The first goal of teaching is to strengthen, deepen and refine our intrinsic love of learning. All other goals and all methods must stem from that idea. Any that do not support that goal must at least be questioned and adjusted, if not eliminated. Otherwise, we are not teaching but training.
Think, I dare you.

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Alexander Beam Kirby

Alec Kirby, Memories of an Earnest Imp  by Forrest D. Poston

Most of you reading this never knew Alec Kirby, and given how little we talked since our days at Muskingum College, I can’t really claim that I knew him, I suppose.  Still, our paths crossed for a time, a rather critical age for many and what was in so many ways a really bad time for me.  Alec made it better, and learning that he died has made my world a little darker.  Even if we didn’t talk for long stretches, knowing he was out there made me smile, and we need those people as much as we need the ones we see every day.

In some ways, we were a Mutt and Jeff or Oscar and Felix pairing.  He was four years younger and fresh to college from a fairly upscale suburban area in Michigan and really hadn't experienced much outside of that world.  Although I was naive in a world class way of my own, I had gone from my working class, West Virginia world to spend one college year in a very upscale southern atmosphere plus two years as a dropout selling vacuum cleaners, working in concrete, building prefab houses, repairing railroad tracks and several other varied jobs...very much a working class guy with a management education and an unmotivated idealist with no real focus.

Alec was a motivated, focused idealist and a serious scholar from the very beginning, spending much of his freshman year worried that a single bad test score would ruin his career.  From there, he went on to publish a book about Harold Stassen that received very positive reviews from people in the field, including people that Alec highly respected.  It was a good time for Dr. Kirby, but that serious side wasn’t the whole Alec.  No, he didn’t have a Mr. Hyde, but Alec the Earnest was also Alec the Imp.

He had a face that said, “You must believe me because I’m clearly clean-cut, honest, and earnest.”  Oh, there was a glint in the eye and twitch of the mouth that clearly revealed the imp to those who knew him, but the unwary could be led well past absurdity, such as the over-worked waitress at Western Pancake restaurant when the gang made a late-night visit. 

All the waitress really wanted to know was which orders were separate and which together, and Alec launched into a wild list of which people were together, mixing and matching this person with that one way down the table, this one over there.  It was as outrageous as he could make it, and the waitress quietly took it all in.  Of course, she had dealt with us enough to be hard to ruffle, and we were certainly easier than the bar-closing crowd that came in later.

He also had a talent that enabled him to pick up any book and automatically open it to the raciest page.  I tested him carefully with various books from that rack at Lawson’s.  I don't think we ever tried it with a math textbook, but I have faith that he would have found something.  When you attended a small college in a small town long before the internet, you had to create entertainment and distractions where you could.

Still, it took a good friend with that impish twist to spend half an hour or more making up suggestive puns just from the detergent/dishwashing aisle one night in Shegog's IGA.  Given other events of that evening, it could have become one of my more painful memories, but instead it’s all about Alec, bad puns, and cackles.  More than once, he made a dark time lighter.

 I doubt that we agreed on anything political back then, and we quite simply saw the world from very different perspectives.  I was the guy from West Virginia, and Alec was surprised and delighted the first time he saw cows right beside the road.    I’m sure there were times that he was impressed by how obtuse I could be, and there were times when he frustrated me by not recognizing that I was always right, but just disagreeing didn't really matter with Alec. 

You could get into an intense discussion without anger.  Anger was saved mostly until later when the darker realities of politics and history rode alongside his idealism. Of course, being older, I was right, and he did start leaning my way eventually.  He was smart that way.

What comes after this life?  I may have guesses, but I don’t really know, so I can’t say we’ll be seeing each other.  In “Casablanca”, Bogey told Bergman, “We’ll always have Paris.”  Our relationship would have been closer to Bogey and  Claude Rains, and we didn’t have Paris, but at least we’ll always have Shegog’s.

Until We Follow (In Memorium)

Impish but no immortal imp, he grows
no older this day, nor will tomorrow.
Only we, like the memories we grip
so tightly, age, fade, and follow.

A prank, a grin, a word, a dream,
one final surprise, emptiness, and ache,
these are the candles we light today.
These are the candles that burn,
flicker, and follow.

We grow older this day, and
will tomorrow, and we embrace
each trace of memory, holding
until we follow.

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Writing and Education

Autobiography Challenge

Considering Conclusions

Considering Introductions

Four Meanings of Life

Godot and the Great Pumpkin

A Major is More Minor Than
You Think

The Poetry Process (A look at 4 versions of a poem.)

Thoughts About Picking a Major

Quick Points About Education

Quick Points About Writing

Reading Poetry and Cloud Watching

Revising Revision

Reviving Experience

Reviving Symbolism

Using an Audience


What Makes a Story True?

What's the Subject of This Class? (Being revised.)

Why Write?

Writing and Einstein (The Difference Between Information and Meaning)

Writing and the Goldilocks Dilemma

Links to Other Sites

Other Essays and Poetry

Alec Kirby, Memories of an Earnest Imp

Something Somewhat Vaguely Like a Resume

Alec Kirby, Memories of an Earnest Imp

Being Like Children

Beyond the Genes (Dad)

The Blessing and the Blues

Bookin' Down Brown Street

The Cat With a Bucket List

David and the Revelation

The Dawn, the Dark, and the Horse I Didn't Ride In On (an odd, meandering, semi-romantic story)

Getting a Clue

Ghost Dancer in the Twilight Zone

The Hair Connection and the Nature of Choices

The Mug, the Magic, and the Mistake

Roto, Rooter and the Drainy Day

Sadie on the Bridge

Trumpet Player, USDA Approved



Selected Poems

The Poetry Process

Links to Other Sites