Traces of Mystery

Dr. Daniel Getz, religion professor, based his Last Lecture on Chinese traditions and mystery.

April 16, 2010

By Melissa Vogrin '10 

Dr. Daniel Getz, Bradley religion professor, gave the third annual Last Lecture on April 15. The Last Lecture series is sponsored by Bradley Hillel, and features a member of Bradley’s faculty, administration, or staff who has been nominated by students and alumni to speak as though it were his or her final lecture.

Getz began his lecture, “Mysterious Traces: Traces of Mystery,” with the Chinese proverb, “Under heaven there is never a banquet that does not disperse.” But, while the Chinese use this expression to voice regret over ending a party, the professor sees it in a more positive light. According to Getz, the banquet is a staple of Chinese life, and it represents sustenance, joy, fellowship, and life. He compared his career at Bradley to a banquet.

Getz began studying Chinese while attending the University of Minnesota. Though he had to set about the task of learning 600 characters in one semester, he was “drawn into the mystery of tracing the characters. Where did they come from? How did they evolve?” Thus began his pursuit of all things mysterious. Getz later earned a master’s degree in Chinese philosophy in Taiwan. He holds a doctorate in religious studies from Yale.

His lecture focused on the Chinese pursuit of societal harmony throughout history. In examining this pursuit, he traced the three great traditions of China: Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. He then explained how each tradition attempted to find harmony. For each tradition, Dr. Getz highlighted two Chinese symbols, and he demonstrated their application to society through Chinese artwork.

The Last Lecture concept originated at the University of Michigan Hillel more than 10 years ago. It became popular when the late Dr. Randy Pausch gave his Last Lecture in September 2007 at Carnegie Mellon University, and the YouTube video of his talk became an international hit.

“It was shortly thereafter that Bradley Hillel initiated the series as a program that would raise Hillel’s profile on campus, and help the organization to become not just a sponsor of Jewish events, but a sponsor of events that would be of interest to the entire campus community,” explains Bradley Hillel adviser Dr. Seth Katz, an associate professor of English.

Bradley President Joanne Glasser delivered the first Last Lecture on campus in 2008. Dr. Robert Fuller, Bradley religion professor, was the Last Lecture speaker last year.