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I was auditing one of his Shakespear courses one Spring term. He came excitedly into the class a bit after the bell and said, “I just passed a young couple and it was obvious to see how much that they were in love.”
On another occasion I remember was him letting everyone in the class know that he wouldn’t be there tomorrow because he and his grandson were going mushroom hunting in the Cascades. He mentioned that he had baked some bread and would take along some wine and cheese.
I was delighted that he allowed me to sit in that class that Spring.]]>
I suppose, had we not talked many times in his office in Padelford (looking out over Lake Washington), the old man’s influence on this callow youth would have been profound enough for having persuaded me of the post-secondary value of giving Shakespeare a second glance. And so it was, through three terms of the Tragedies, the Comedies, the Histories that I encountered the bard anew through the passionate, spellbinding declamations of the old man – 50 minutes each day, 7 days each week for 9 consecutive months. Could there have been a better reintroduction to the greatest playwright to have ever written or graced the stage?
Perhaps not. The bard however was certainly upstaged by the man, the old man, who gave this unsophisticated hayseed a touchstone for life. A touchstone which has guided, informed, and inspired me now for some 55 years or more.
One day, while in Padelford overlooking the pounding whitecaps of the old man’s beloved Lake Washington I, surely more than 50 years his junior, inquired with some temerity why he had given up the practice of law (you see, I had discovered he had a law degree) for Shakespeare — after only one year, as I recall. The old man pinned his piercing, playful, serious gaze on me intoning in stentorian voice “It did immoral things to my soul.”
IT DID IMMORAL THINGS TO MY SOUL
I have carried that phrase for a lifetime of my own now and, having had more than several occasions to have re-engaged life with its help engaging the essence of the question it answers, now share the same question with others when the occasions and circumstances demand.
In a life of eschewing answers, for having an answer almost always entails having asked a wrong question, “It did immoral things to my soul” is the exemplary answer which inspires the omnipresent question, always present (if unspoken) in everyone’s life. The old man, one peasants son to another, inoculated me with life. The son of one logger to the son of another giving me the means to ask of myself the most important question…
“What is this doing to my soul?” A question which might have no answer, but if you have to ask it…
Old man, I wish I might have called you “Pello.” I would gladly have traded my innocence for that guilty pleasure…]]>