I regret not paying attention when Gabriel García Márquez spoke to my class as an undergrad. I carry that with me when I sit in lectures now - gratitude for the opportunity, a sense of immediacy urging me to savor the moment, and bravery prompting me to sit in the front row and ask a question (even if only professors are sitting up there). Most of the people I've met have been very nice. I get really intimidated sometimes, so I hang onto the little humanizing attributes - the world-renown lecturer who attends afternoon lectures with his shoes off and eats a sandwich, the dynamic writer who pushes his glasses up while he tells warm stories about a grandparent, the charismatic speaker who gives me their card and genuinely encourages me to arrange a time for an interview.
Sometimes I don't get my opportunity. I wanted to hear the late Rev. Peter Gomes and ask him questions about his ideas of the Divine and human dignity. I thought his theology would help me find some peace. I looked up his office hours a week or so before he passed, unfortunately, never stopping by.
May he rest.
My friends know that I love the Prometheus myth. I'm always talking about stolen fire. Sometimes the myth morphs into the part in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 when the guys are warming their hands by the fire and reciting lines of poetry and prose - a snippet of Shakespeare in Seattle; some Homer rendered a l'italienne in Rome; some Milton stashed away between the cobblestones in Boston...
...and they draw near one another by sharing it. Fire keeps us warm and illuminates our path, but we forget that in the myth it also gives humanity the power to heal themselves.
I've healed myself at Elie Wiesel's flame in Chicago, Howard Zinn's flame in Boston, Isabel Wilkerson's flame at Brandeis, Elizabeth Alexander's flame in Cambridge; Henry Louis Gates' flame; Eddie Glaude's, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot's, and countless other academics.
Moreover, I've shared my spark with many others - people I've met at bus stops whose names I'll never know, people met during airport layovers, at the pop machine. The man with the bandages on his wrists at O'Hare, the man who encouraged me when I was scared during my layover in DC when I moved to the east coast all alone, the Black family from Oakland I met during a layover in Phoenix on the way to SFO whose (not-so) fictive kinship made me feel at home...even though I was 2000 miles away,