|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.
Alexander Beam 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
A prank, a grin, a word, a dream,
We grow older this day, and
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Writing and Education
Four Meanings of Life
Godot and the Great Pumpkin
A Major is More Minor Than
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
Using an Audience
What Makes a Story True?
What's the Subject of This Class? (Being revised.)
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
The Poetry Process
Links to Other Sites