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One Student's Decision

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[el3l]

This collection of columns or tomorrow's colloquium on apartheid may strike you as interesting, but you might not have any time for them. When I was an undergraduate at MIT in the early 70's, I certainly committed the largest portion of my time to schoolwork. I participated in a few extracurricular activities I thought important, but only occasionally attended special lectures or seminars.

But one time I heard that Jorge Luis Borges was speaking at Tufts. We had been reading some of his philosophically thrilling stories in my Spanish Literature class. When I couldn't convince any of my friends to join me, I decided to make my way out to Tufts alone.

The poems Borges read that evening drew on his own experience of blindness and age. His comments which followed expressed a sincerity and humility I can still feel. Here are a few of his comments, as best as I can reconstruct them now:

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Happiness comes unreasonably; just enjoy it. Blindness can be ave-<>

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nue of happiness. Blindness simplifies. I used to employ every moment, even reading on the bus, but now time flows differently. A sleepless night is not necessarily an unhappiness.

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But some mornings I awake to despair in the realization of my human identity: Borges, the overrated writer.

I am so glad I went to that talk. It took an effort, but it was well worth it, with a much higher return than some extra hours spent otherwise. I only wish I had gone to an important talk every month. Once a month would have been enough, because, like most of you, I was no writer or philosopher or political activist, just a conscientious student interested in things. For the benefits, the cost in time over my college years would have been relatively nothing. But making it to an important lecture even once a month takes deliberate decision and effort, because the time almost never seems convenient, and pressures tend to crush such activities out of our lives.

See you at Motlana's talk tomorrow.

[gd]