Thursday, May 05, 2005

Will II

This afternoon, a second service was held for Will Britt at University of the Pacific. I spoke at it and here is a summary of what I said.

The service had originally been scheduled for outdoors but it got moved inside because of rain into the Morris Chapel. We had about 30 people there - which is remarkable considering that this is finals week and Will had only been at Pacific for one semester.

I was pleased the services were moved into the chapel. When I was an undergraduate there were speakers at Morris like Bettina Aptheker, Russell Kirk and Timothy Leary. Will would have enjoyed some of those speeches. I took a class called Christianity and Communism in the room we held the service in. My wife and I were remarried in the chapel and my room-mate all the way through college was married there and I was his best man. This was fitting because, in one sense, this was Will's last intellectual home.

I spoke about our trip in 1997 to Oaxaca. During that trip, I successfully embarrassed Will by telling a shaggy dog story in Spanish which fell entirely flat. At the next break he ran out to Peter - who was in a more advanced class - and said I had embarrassed him because the joke bombed so much. But the highlight of the trip was up to Monte Alban - which is a huge and important archeological site discovered by Antonio Caso in the early 1920s. According to the story Caso was walking in a corn field and found a small chard of pottery and speculated that it did not belong there so there must be something important below the site. What a remarkable point of insight. I showed Will and Peter around the site - the observatory, the Pelote field, the hospital where they actually did brain surgery. And I had been there several times before. They seemed interested but the real find was that both boys then found other parts of the site that I had simply not seen before - because I had always taken the normal path and 15 year olds did not do that.

I then talked about Will and my trip to Pacific for the first time - I went down with Will in December to introduce him to the campus. We had lunch with a friend who is a professor named Bob Benedetti. Will showed well that day. We talked about a range of political and social philosophers. Will was struggling with Nietzsche - I've never liked much of what he had to say - although I cannot seriously say I have thought very carefully about him - but Will was trying to figure him out.

Will's gift to me was to recognize that my son Pete may take a different path to get to where he wants to go.

Then Bob Benedetti spoke and read a poem about a fallen athlete and the special problems of young people dying.

George Condon then gave a wonderful talk on his encounters with Will. His interactions with Will on doing a goal statement - where Will was determined to portray himsel in his own terms. And the last conversation he had with Will about next steps which might have been something in a Washington internship. George spoke with Will immediately after I did - and so soon after he then got into his car.

One student spoke, the Rabbi sang a bit and then Will's father gave a moving response - talking about Will's situation - how he got to Pacific and what Will had lived with over the last year. It was different than the service on Tuesday. I hope it was comfort to Don and Jennifer, it certainly was to me.

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