Digging up Bones

Paul Tillich Collage

Paul Tillich Collage

I thought I was finished blogging for the night.  I went down the hall and resumed tidying a room that had filled with clutter over the past couple of years.  As I went through a stack of receipts, separating out the ones that needed to be put in my business files for tax purposes, I felt like a dog digging up bones, but was receivng zero satisfaction.  And then I excavated a hand-written letter dated December 14 of last year from one of my high school Philosophy students.  I had thought of this letter dozens of times throughout the spring term, but never knew where I had placed it.  From now on, it will be in a sacred place where I can return to read it as often as necessary.  Such letters to others sometimes leave me cold when I read them on a blog, and I recognize that this might be a turn-off to some.  And for that I would apologize in advance, and encourage you not to read further if you think such things are sentimentally sloppy.  But I was moved when I received it, have been moved dozens of times by the memory of it, and now am deeply moved late tonight as I read it afresh:

You are my Paul Tilllich

Sighhh . . . the semester is coming to an end and schedules will be changed when coming back from the break.  There is much joy in this, but also much sadness.  An end to the semester means also an end to Philosophy.  This will be the last journal entry I turn in to you, so I have decided to express my gratitude twowards you in this last writing.  Thank you for the patience you had for our class.   Thank you for being a dedicated teacher and being good at what you lecture.  To be completely honest, I could never fully understand the passages you handed out for us to read at home.  Some things were hard for me to process and grasp the concept of.  Every philosopher had his complex way of explaining the thoughts that went through his head.  I just could never get it.  Until you explained it the next day.  Everything you said always made such perfect sense, and every word was so convincing.

You explained to us that everybody was always so interested in what Paul Tillich had to say.  They always loved listening to him because he seemed so in love with what he was saying.  Even though they didn’t understand him, they didn’t want him to stop talking.  That’s you, Dr. Tripp.  The only difference is that I do understand what you say.  No matter how intellectual or deep you talk, I can always understand you and I always wish you’d continue to talk whenever you stop.

To be honest, the only reason I got in this class was to fill up my schedule.  But if I would have known what I was getting myself into, it would have been my elective of first choice.  So I hope next semester your new class receives the same impact from you, and I hope they appreciate you as much as I do.  Once again, thank you for everything, Dr. Tripp.  Thank you for making this semester so interesting.  You are my Paul Tillich.

Thanks for reading, and good night.



3 Responses to “Digging up Bones”

  1. Xraypics Says:

    What a beautiful letter to receive from a student – and so fulfilling. Congratulations you must have done something right to inspire someone like that. Tony


  2. ann Says:

    What a thoughtful letter and deeply touching it is to receive such a letter from a student. Isn’t that why we teach? to inspire is what you do best I think. You have also inspired me to read Tillich again. Thank you for sharing the letter and always pleasure getting your insights into art and life. Ann


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you for your kind comments, Ann. I’m delighted to hear that you’re returning to Tillich. I never finished “The Courage to Be” and am trying to get through it this summer, with all the other things I’m trying to complete.


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