A good old man, talking
You know Ed Taylor as a donor and friend, both to the university (Taylor Excellence in Teaching Award) and the Ashbrook Center (Taylor Chair in the MAHG program, held by Christopher Flannery; Taylor Excellence in Writing Award, etc.). He is an old friend. And here is where the humor of it starts. Not only have I known him for a long time, but he is also almost 101 years old. It was late in the day, and I was a bit tired, yet I visited him yesterday as he is recovering. He fell a few weeks ago, broke his leg, but didn't know it, kept walking on it, damaged old bones, and had to have a partial hip replacement. I was there last week when he was taken into surgery, giving thoughtful orders to the nurses. He still rules himself, and others around him, as needed, by right. He still has his wits and his authority. I repeat myself, Ed is one hundred years old.
There he sits, a good man and true. He can't see everything, but he sees enough to know that this fat shape in front of him must be Peter. He doesn't hear well, but he can turn the gizmo in his right ear up, in case I say anything interesting. I was with him an hour and a half. He wasn't interested in talking about himself, or the weather, only the well being of the country. His experience hasn't dulled his most fundamental sense, his vigorous mind. He is not too old to think, he is not too old to learn.
Do you think that there is enough of a constituency out there that still appreciated standards, so that the old virtues of diligence and perseverance can be re-kindled when necessary? It wasn't enough for me to say yes, I had to give reasons, and each had to be expanded and clarified as a result of his queries. The whys and wherefores forced me to concentrate, just to keep his pace. It was not possible to get beyond him. Sure, there was some talk of policy issues, and taxes, and government spending, but mostly there was just talk of the virtues necessary for self-government and questioning whether or not we still have them, as needed. He argued with perfect clarity why we shouldn't hide our virtues in the world as it now is. No tempest in his old unblemished mind, nothing but clarity and wisdom on behalf of freedom. Impressive and good, and I noticed as I left that I was no longer tired. Another gift from Ed.
Let me praise my old friend this way: An old man should always be an Edward Taylor.
1:58 PM / August 26, 2010