it's always nice if behind some man you discover a little of what makes them tick.

i went to today's lecture on apartheid expecting the usual barrage of facts and jokes. given, it's a grim topic (after all it's over), but just like we dealt with collectivisation and the numbers who died in wars with a careful mix of humour and remembrance, we could surely do that again. "for isn't history the study of failure?"

"i wish we didn't grow up with the idea that we could change the world." that popped up earlier in a conversation today. it is true. i guess some people have the idea they can change the world. but it's no fault of anyone's. if it's the book you read, or you think god has given you some gifts which ought not to be wasted, whatever it is, you didn't ask for it to happen. i just think it's fine if we all take advantage of the time's when we're inspired, and to try to find it when it's not there. life's a tad more brilliant with inspiration.

so he launched into a brief introduction of historiography, you know, terms like "marxist", "liberal" [hobsbawm, feinstein, so it turns out i prefer reading a marxian, dimmer view of history. whatever you say about these men, they got their hands dirty. although they mostly changed their views later on as it occured communism failed to make sense too, and like all good citizens, turned social democrat, they had conviction. as i was told, feinstein was a signed up member of the ANC, one of the few to sign the papers, jumped out the window when they were raided as was, as a white, given thus a chance for voluntary exile or arrest and prison on robben island (where mandela would be incarcerated). he remembered leaving on the train to england and having a large contingent of coloured people waving him goodbye which was one immensely satisfying. at the same time, he felt like a coward for leaving at which point dr leunig remarked, "then i guess we're all cowards." he wasn't allowed back for the funeral of his dad. this man who studied economics and then accountancy in south africa because his father thought "there was no future in history" (quite witty, he), disproved that by eventually being chichele professor of economic history at oxford, producing lots of stats which i now use for my essay, but more than that, i guess simply inspiring undergraduates with the apparently high standard of his lecturing. which seems to have rubbed off on one of his students, dr leunig, who is now teaching us brilliantly. what was poignant was that our lecturer wanted prof feinstein to be at the lecture, to be able to correct any mistakes, given that south africa was a topic so close to his heart. but he expressed his regret that he's now in another world, and it was moving to have a moment of sentimentality out of the quotidienne.]

and it works. having been taught to such a high standard, where i'm actually awake in a lecture, i can't possibly teach anyone in the same old boring way. the same way i hated classes where i just had to sit down and listen to someone drone, which i can blame for my indifferent results, but i can't really because i could have been interested if i tried, at the same time, i can't stand boring or routine teaching methods. i tried never to do it as a teacher.

it's not subject matter. i can sit through maths provided there is a gripping explanation of difference and differential equations, one where the thing grips you and you return wanting to answer why. anyone who has read the feynman lectures in physics knows that teaching is as much about psychology, putting your ideas through in the clear way that matters, with humour from time to time because lectures aren't a textbook. textbooks you can read at home. you come to a lecture for interaction, to hear how someone views whatever he happens to be interested in, like making cotton spindles (which, as part of the economic history of lancashire cotton, actually was best doctoral dissertation in economic history)

some of us have are just born with an incurable romanticism, and we need to see beauty for beauty's sake.

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