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Ode to Some of the Most Influential People in My Life
November 21, 1998


Written on one of those post-college-essay-writing nights when I had nothing better to do
but to fall asleep and wake up in time for Physics class...


The Odes:

Ode 1: Ode to My Dad
Ode 2: Ode to Dr. Kolena
Ode 3: Ode to Dr. Manring
Ode 4: Ode to Dr. Winters
Ode 5: Ode to Dr. Winters, part 2
Ode 6: Ode to Dr. Winters, part 3
Ode 7: Ode...(well, you know the rest)
Ode 8: Dad, please don't kill me for saying this...
Ode 9: Ode to Dr. Miller, in a way...
Ode 10: An Ode to Conclusions

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If you are reading this, then it probably means that I've kicked the bucket. I decided to write a will and summary of my life in the event that I lose the opportunity to share with my family and closest friends things I have always wanted to share with them, but never had or could. The last thing I would want is for you to grieve over me, so stop that right now, and read what I have to say.

I only hope that I have died in the pursuit of knowledge or in helping another person through life; if my death didn't turn out that way, oh well, that's life. I suppose I hate death for not having allowed me the chance to make something better of this world, in whatever small way I could have. I hate death for not having allowed me the chance to spend more time with the people whom I care about. I hate death for not allowing me to live life in the way I would have liked to. Most of all, however, I hate death because now I am gone, and those I have left behind will now grieve much more than I am grieving now, if I could, of course.

What is death but a transition of life? If it were not for death, there could be no life on this world. The individual dies, but the species continues on, as I learned from Mrs. Brinson's Environmental Science class--I have every confidence that the world will continue to become a better place regardless if I am able to see it or not. Those that I have been privileged to know are of such capability and honor that the progress of knowledge is ensured upon this earth; I only feel disappointed because I could not have contributed to this great endeavor of my family and friends.


The Odes:


Ode to my Dad

Dad, I know you're a strong man--you've always been a strong man. No one on earth can sway your thoughts once they are set; your heart is fixed and steady, yet it is not made of stone. You feel deeply for me, and I know that now, as you are hearing these words, your eyes and soul have become loose and liquid. If I am somehow able to exist after death through the unknown fundamental workings and physics of the universe, the last thing you would want is for me to see you in tears. Be a man--big boys don't cry, remember? I have always seen life as a journey, a hidden path waiting to be uncovered, and although I did not get the chance to uncover as much as I would have wanted, I am happy with what I have done. I know that you feel the same way, too. I love you, and I wish you to be more open to the liveliness and joy of being alive--life is an adventure. As my English teacher, Dr. Miller, once said, tempus fugits, and because tempus fugits, we have to carpe the diem, and we have to carpe the diem because each of us mementos the mori. Time flies, and because time flies we have to seize the day, because we remember that someday, each of us will die. I wish you peace and all my love, and that you will live long to cherish the new and ever-advancing world that I have wanted to, but for some reason (and I wonder what that may be) will never see.

For the past two years, I have attended the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, and I have understood that during this time, my life here has been somewhat of a mystery to my family. Besides the informative report cards and the regular newsletters that are sent home, my dad, and therefore my family, knows little about how my life here has greatly changed who I am. For the first time, I have truly seen the world. I have been given the opportunity to meet people who have done the things I have always wanted to do, but could not yet do. I have been surrounded by some of the most intelligent, spirited, and enthusiastic persons I have ever known, who have reminded me to always keep an open mind and to never cease learning. If I never attended this school, I cannot imagine the type of person I would have (or would not have) become.

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Ode to Dr. Kolena

Dr. Kolena, you only knew me for a little while and I never did anything special in your class, so my absence probably will not bother you much (hopefully). You are both the butt of NCSSM jokes and one of the persons I have come to most respect in my life--you taught me to be serious about physics and even more, by having to leave your class, you only taught me to seize physics with an even greater vengeance. My performance in Dr. Manring's class during my junior year was primarily due to my refusal to quit--I loved and will always love physics, and nothing could have prevented me from continuing my study in this field. There should be a Kolena in every school--people might learn to have more of a respect for science, especially Astro. Astronomy was what drew me to science so long ago, but I didn't think both Astro and A-Mod would fit into my schedule my senior year. If I had the chance, I certainly would have taken such a class in college. I've tried to do my best in physics, Dr. Kolena, and hopefully to you, I didn't fail life this time. I think this time, it has become the other way around.

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Ode to Dr. Manring

Dr. Manring, you have taught my first real physics course and have shown me the wonders of the physical world. You made forces on springs and balls come alive, and have always had time to answer my many questions. There was hardly a day in my junior year when my dad didn't hear of all the things I learned in your physics class, and there was hardly a day when he heard much else. In you I see experience and a true love of knowledge; if I ever could, I would have wanted to share my optimism of life and learning with others in the same way as you had with me. In Aikido, you taught me that there was much more to life than we normally see, that physics and humanity are deeply intertwined, and that body and mind are inseparable. My coordination has never been better; at times I felt as if I were as one, complete and at peace with myself, and life had never seemed so clear regardless if class was at 7 am Tuesday morning or 3:30 in the noisy PEC. Then there came Interactive Physics--between that and a video project for PhysCal, I have never felt that I was dealing with physics on a more fundamental level than I did while we thought up Physics 105 labs and used Kepler's law and scaling factors to create the Solar System on a simple computer screen. I will miss Interactive Physics and Aikido, and I will miss even more greatly your enthusiasm for learning. I hope that you continue to teach physics students in coming years the same things that you have taught me, and I hope your life will never be without peace.

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Ode to Dr. Winters

To most people you probably have just been "the PhysCal teacher." That is probably the most narrow way I can think of to describe your many talents and capabilities, Dr. Winters, and so here I will try to give a broader description. There has been only one thing I could ever think of doing in my life, and that is physics. There haven't many opportunities for me to do much study in this field before I came to Science and Math, but every opportunity that I saw, I took--my room at home is littered with physics books stacked in closets, inside wardrobes, under the bed, everywhere. If there was ever anything that could make me happy, it was physics. I was a bit apprehensive at first about coming to your class because you were "Dr. Winters: Teacher of Physics with Calculus," and I was just a lowly physics student from Physics 105 with the least amount of experience in your class and with practically nothing to offer compared to everyone else. Mechanics has always been the gray area of my physics knowledge and you anticipated this--from the start, you made available a Physics 110 textbook and any other materials I would need to catch up with the rest of the class. Conceptual math and algebra have not always been my best capabilities, and then the day came when I took the first PhysCal test. That was the day. I kept thinking to myself, "How can I ever hope to be a physicist if I can't understand simple math and physics?" You told me not to be discouraged, but there you were--an accomplished physics teacher with a Ph.D and a life's worth of physics, and I could not help but to feel discouraged. Feeling discouraged, however, was something I could never feel for long when it came to physics--I suppose I have never told you how much I love physics, and that this was the reason I continued to study, regardless of what hour of the day it was, whether or not I had to sit on the floor or the table (it seems I had a preference for tables) on Physics Floor to get my homework done, if I was the only person at a physics tutorial, or if I was the last person to leave Physics Floor.

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Ode to Dr. Winters, part 2

I apologize for always having to do my homework right outside your office--there was no place else on campus that I could really concentrate on physics, and I apologize for having to always ask whether you were busy or not when I came to ask for help. I know now that you are always busy, Dr. Winters, but sometimes you are less busy than usual, and I always tried to pick that moment as the moment I walked in. Over my senior year I have had the chance to hear various students comment on how you are always so busy when you only teach one class and how you are always so serious about apparently nothing, and during every incidence I have had to explain to them how wrong they were for viewing you this way. You have important conferences and meetings to attend, administrative business to attend to, and I have had the time to see the PhysCal website you have made that explains the purpose of using technology and video in our class. I would have attended UNC next year, and through several links I came across the websites of NCSSM alumni who have taken your High-Speed Photography class and who have posted the images both you and them have created on the web. I wish I could have taken that course--our lives are so stressed and fast-paced that we never stop to smell the roses, nevertheless wonder how the popping of a balloon or the splash of a single water drop appears in such a small instant of time. I knew HTML very well and I wished I could have helped the school make a better website in some way. I wished I could have done many things.

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Ode to Dr. Winters, part 3

You have been somewhat of a father away from home to me; you encouraged me to learn physics while always applying a careful, firm pressure that caused me to try and think through problems by myself without always having to come to you or other PhysCal students for help. You have done the things that I had always aspired to do in my life--draw perfect circles on chalkboards, assign tardy students work service (okay, I'll get to the serious stuff)--learn enough physics to be able to get a Ph.D and help others learn physics in one of the best learning environments in the world, have a good, enjoyable job and your own "lab" at home whether it be one of photography or high-energy physics, and, finally, to have made it through life as far as you have.

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Ode...(well, you know the rest)

I hope you don't miss me always busy at physics homework just outside your door or always bothering you with questions (somehow, I don't suspect that you will miss the latter). While I am indescribably grateful for all the things you have done for me to ensure that I have a solid understanding of basic physics, I must also remind myself that there are students much more qualified to work with you and who will have more to contribute to your teaching than I ever could. If I only had the time I most likely would have become a better physics student, and then perhaps you could have taken more notice of me as someone more than just another lowly Physics 105 graduate who just happened to be sitting in your class. I wish I knew Java better than I did; I wish I had taken photography courses in all the visual art courses I have taken in the past; I wish I could have done so much more. I don't know why I bother thinking about how you view me because five years from now you probably won't even remember me; I just know that I can't help but to bother probably because earning the respect of one of the most accomplished teachers I know in the subject whose comprehension has become one of my most important goals in life matters more to me now than anything else. I only wish I could have been a better physics student.

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Dad, don't kill me for saying this...

I have always wanted to change my name, not because I'm not satisfied with it but because in this country, my name is difficult to spell and pronounce, because I have been the butt of many jokes and name-callings, and because I often am unable to distinguish a loud sigh or moan from someone actually calling my name. I say this here because Dad, I don't want you to think I'm not proud of my name or that I don't care about my family. Please don't kill me for saying what follows (oh, I forgot--I'm supposed to be deceased). If I lived in Thailand where my name is pretty common, I likely would not have these small reservations about my name. I had always wanted to name myself after someone who had been quite influential in my life and had a name I could get used to--I couldn't name myself after my dad since his was a guy's name or after any other guy, and I couldn't name myself after my mom because no one would be able to distinguish our names apart. If I could have had the opportunity to choose another name for myself now, I would choose Loren, my physics teacher's name, for one reason. I would want to have a reminder of my constant and unswerving love for science, and to always remember because of this that life is but a long walk beneath a hidden path constantly being uncovered. I want to remember everything I have ever learned in physics. I want to always remember my last year at Science and Math, the place where I can say I first experienced the world in all its light and content, where the shutter speed of my mental eye had become quick enough to experience life without blur. I want to always remember how life changes, how the drops of time constantly splash and coalesce into a film of new dreams and unforeseen ambitions, how a new idea can be generated from such an unlikely source as my own mind, and how an individual can be helped to grow and mature by another. These are all the things I would want to remember, but now that I am no longer here, I likely will not be able to remember these things.

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Ode to Dr. Miller, in a way...

Dr. Miller, in his readings of Beowulf and Sir Philip Sydney, had said many times that there were two roads to immortality. The first was to have children, and because I have none and I am the last person in my immediate family, my immediate family and all of our memories together will end with my father and me. The second road to immortality is to be remembered in the thoughts of others. When both my father and I are gone, who else will remember my life and all the things that have been important in it? I have always wanted to make my little mark in the world, and the case has probably arrived where I will not be able to carry out this wish. Perhaps those whom I have held very dear will think of me once in a while and remember some of the few things, if any, I have contributed to their lives. Being young, I have not been able to do much, and for this, I apologize. I can only wish that Time's scythe had not severed my link to this world at such an early point in my life.

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An Ode to Conclusions

Dad, you may keep this, but please make sure that everyone else I have included here also gets a copy of this. Hopefully, I have helped to answer the questions that you may have had in recent times about my life, and if I haven't done such a good job as I should have, look within yourself for the answers to these questions, because you will inevitably find them there. You are a strong man, and no one can suggest an answer to these questions--not even me, now. The answers are always there; they only have to be uncovered. Dad, I love you, and I am so proud of you and am glad to have had you for my father. I also love everyone I know, this world, and the entire universe to which I shall now return. Neither you nor anyone should grieve for me--I will likely find plenty of company there when I arrive. If through some unknown perturbation of the universe I manage to exist in some form after death, I will think of my life. If I should learn physics on my way to my origins, then I will be happy, because I know you will be proud of me.


A Loving Daughter and (still) Aspiring Physics Student,
Dahl Clark


"You are a child of the Universe, no less than the trees and stars."

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