Many of us have had teachers who were brilliant – and boring. It’s hard to learn from a person when our primary focus is in keeping awake in class.
I was privileged to have received instruction in medieval history by Professor Richard G. Luman. He was one of the most entertaining, knowledgeable and delightful instructors in my college experience.
When I first saw him I couldn’t help notice the similarity his face bore to the paintings I had seen of Martin Luther – the difference being that Luther was always portrayed with a dour look while Professor Luman always had a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. Later I learned that the good professor was a Lutheran – but I’m sure that was co-incidental.
Our first day of class, Professor Luman introduced himself to us and began his introduction to the course:
“Ladies and gentlemen – boys and girls – welcome to my class. Let me begin with some definitions.”
“The world is divided into three parts. The first is from the creation until approximately the year 500 A. D.; the second from 500 A. D. until approximately the year 1500 A. D.; the last from 1500 A. D. to the present.”
“Now the first of these is most properly described as archeology; the second, of course, is history; and the third is yellow journalism.”
I knew that I was going to enjoy this class (and two others which I subsequently took with Professor Luman).
I don’t know whether it was his tutelage that helped form my view of the world or if he merely reinforced my already existing outlook – but I do admit that I have a more historical perspective on life than most people I know.
By that I mean that I am reluctant to get involved in the latest fad – realizing that most of these will come and go quickly and probably find themselves as little more than a footnote in the history books that will be written.
Cabbage Patch Dolls; Boy Bands; Girl Bands; Boys Looking Like Girl Bands; wearing clothes inside out, etc. These are just a few examples of things that enjoyed great popularity and are now largely forgotten. (I sincerely hope the cacophony that we call rap “music” makes this list).
I admit to a certain laziness on my part in adopting this philosophy. I think to myself, “Why get caught up in something – however appealing it might seem at the moment – when it is going to be forgotten in six months or a year from now?” I would rather think about and experience things that have lasted for a century or two and will probably still be with us a few hundred years in the future.
We have all heard the Santayana quotation, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
I prefer thinking about it this way. “The lessons of the past provide us with a guide to a better future.”
Professor Luman helped me develop an appreciation for the lessons which history offers us. I wish there were more teachers like him – and more people who understood the message that he delivered.