Throughout my development as a learner, thinker, and educator, I have been influenced by a countless number of scholars who have informed my view of the world and how I understand it. While it would be interesting to compile each and every one of these individuals in this post, to do so would be both laborious and boring for writer and reader alike. With that being said, I would like to offer up three individuals who I can think up off the top of my head who have either influenced me greatly or recently.
The first person who I would like to discuss is actually three people, although they all fill the same role in my life, which is why I feel it is fair to compile them all in to one entry. They are, in chronological order, Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and Brian Cox, all eminent physicists. Each of these three scientists, the latter of the two who are still alive, are acclaimed in their fields and are considered among their peers to be some of the finest, and most profound thinkers operating in physics today. However, what I really appreciate about all of these scientists is their ability to take extremely complex topics, such as quantum mechanics, and describe them in such a manner that they are easy to comprehend by those without a familiar understanding of the physical sciences. Additionally, each of these individuals shares a sense of wonder about the universe that is infectious and causes the learner to take pause and consider just what their place is in the grand cosmos of the galaxy. Below is a video which captures my feelings on these such teachers perfectly.
Albert Camus has similarly had a profound influence on the way I think and consider the world. Like the above scientists, Camus was an individual who thought about the world deeply and considered how man can live in a world devoid of any explicitly clear purpose or meaning. Camus, grew up in French occupied Algiers and was heavily influenced by the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. He was a man who saw the horror of the war and the world and found it difficult to reconcile that existence with any sort of meaning and thus set out to justify why a man should choose to live under such a heavy wait. His transcendent essay The Myth of Sisyphus asked the question if it was philosophically prudent to commit suicide which subsequently led him to find meaning in absurd thought, a branch of existentialism. Camus has influenced me because above all else he was a thinker who was never one to settle for half-baked answers or settling. His intellectual honesty is something that to this day I find quite rare and it is this mode of thought I wish to embrace and impress unto my students.
Lastly, I would be remiss to not include Herman Melville in this list. Moby Dick is one of my favorite books and the reason for this is because of the controlled madness on display in its pages. Melville was a man who had ideas, a lot of ideas, and who also examined the world with a keen eye. Melville was born into a maritime family and from a young age came to know the ways of the sea and the near barbaric world of 19th century ship life. After a number of voyages on various vessels which occupied several years of his life, Melville devoted his life to letters, always drawing inspiration from his life and the sea which gave it to him. What I find most moving about Melville is the furious inquiry and sublime rambling of his writing which probes the deepest, and sometimes latent, pits of our souls. This mad and wonderful interaction with the world is something I I can sympathize with and which everyone can come to realize makes life worth living.
So there we have it, some of the most profound influences on my life. What I appreciated about all of the scholars listed above is that they are not content to simply live life and let it slip by like a ship in the night. Rather, all of these individuals are curious thinkers who realize the world is a fascinating place to live in and something worth studying. As a teacher, above all the other lessons I teach, I want this one to settle into my students brains. Once the spark of curiosity has been lit the fire of inquiry and education will follow.