A Message from Barnaby

Dr. Barnaby Oblivion, longtime resident and physician of Swaffham passed away in his home yesterday. Dr. Oblivion had been in the Swaffham hospital for the past two weeks recovering from pneumonia and just released from the facility several hours before his passing. His sister, who was bedside when he passed, said he wanted to be at home and given his place in the community and his background as a physician, the doctors allowed him to leave the hospital on his own accord.

Dr. Oblivion leaves the town of Swaffham indebted to his service, insatiable spirit and willingness to help others. He will be sorely missed by many.  He recently created the Swaffham Sudoku Society and a scholarship for university that will allow needy Swaffham youth to attend university. A complete obituary, including a look at his life, will be printed this Sunday.

Below is a message from Dr. Oblivion that he wished printed upon his passing.

What I Learned Too Late in Life
By Barnaby Oblivion

Kindness is the only thing of value.

Faith in my life has been a challenge to find, but long ago I heard a leader of men, the Dali Lama, speak these words, “My true religion is kindness.” That has had a lasting impact on me and I was too old when I understood it. But I also know you can only be where you are, and so from that day on I tried. I feel fortunate to have learned it at all.

But enough of that shit. Let’s look at some things that are here today, and we can do right now.

I spent much of my life conversing with wonderful people in Swaffham. In the tavern and in the clinic, at homes, and then on the telephone. I communicated using the medium of the day. It was not until my eighties that I found the “internet” and a game I enjoyed playing, Sudoku. I was given a computer by my sister and I slowly learned not to be afraid of it. The Internet came to Swaffham and I found and joined a community of Sudoku players and greatly enjoyed the games we played.  I had fun.

The one day I saw an advertisement for The Twitter on one of the Sudoku game sites. It sounded great and I joined up. Immediately my life changed. I became ensnared, largely due to my own actions, in a broiling mayhem called ds106. Apparently it was a class about “digital stories” and was being offered to some students in the United States. The man in charge, loosely I might add, was Jim Groom.

During my years of university and schooling the expectations were as clear and orderly as the rows of chairs in the rooms and the lines on our ledgers. I knew what to do because there was only one option: Do as the professor told you or fail. Looking back I was like a sheep being stalked by a wolf. I remained silent as possible and rarely moved.  Much of my education consisted of listening and reciting things back to the professor and I was tested in a similar manner. Answer the question correctly or you fail. That was certainly applicable in many situations, but looking back it was often the only situation.

Now I am not saying my professors were not good, kind, and wise people, but the system they worked in seemed to be one of developing control and that is what trickled down to us, the students. We were controlled. I think if that was the situation I found myself in today I would be a revolutionary in the classes. I would demand to be given alternatives and I would speak out of turn and I would ask fellow students difficult questions only loosely related to the content of the course. I would no longer be a sheep, I would be a lion.

And that brings me to the ds106.

When I arrived into the chaos and confusion I found that while I had no clue what the Twitter was for, and I had only just created my thing called a “blog” I was still engaged and a part of the communication network. So I spoke. I said what I thought and I did not just wait. I, in my old age, roared into the “class” and I had no idea what I was getting into. I will not go into the grisly details as they can be found on my blog and in the blogs of others, but I will share with you what I found.

I found a village of humans from many parts of our planet. How strange is that? I found a small village that seemed caring. Not all of them to be sure. Some were more distant than others, some more polite, some more fearful. But I found them to be, in the rectangle before me on my desk in Swaffham, humans who shared some similar purpose. And I was part of it. The villagers would help me if I needed assistance. Not just the “professor” Jim Groom, but the students themselves offered assistance. Just like my town of Swaffham. There was caring and there was camaraderie. And chaos, but that is another story for someone else to tell.

And this is schooling? In my view yes it is. It is like the schooling we receive after our “schooling” is over and we enter into the “real world.” What a tragedy that we spend so much time in schooling that only schools us on learning in fictitious environments called “schools.” Then we are supposed to learn all over again in the real world. The ds106 seemed more like the real world in many respects. The challenges greater, the obstacles larger and more difficult to overcome, and the community that developed seemed somehow more useful and relevant to what I see on the telly news day after day.  Perhaps it is true, we live in a global village yet modern schools want to keep us in small boxes.

I learned in ds106 to have my own voice and that I could share it beyond the tavern or classroom walls. Maybe that is not what each and every class should teach or expect, but certainly in many cases, there are more teachers/students willing to share their expertise that the one we get handed at the front of the classroom. And in the ds106 I found many teachers willing to share. That is where I hope I find myself when this earthly voyage is over: in village of learners who are willing to explore and wonder and share the journey we all must walk alone.

I hope that you as students spread this message far and wide and you share it at parties when you are drunk and you speak these things at the most serene moments in the wilderness. That you go forth into the world and share what you have learned about leaning in a world that often believes it can do the learning for you. You must move forward or you will be, as Mr. Hesse noted in this brilliant Beneath the Wheel, run over.

Be kind,


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2 Responses to A Message from Barnaby

  1. Wow. This news came out of nowhere, and I honestly don’t know how to respond. My initial relationship with Dr. Oblivion of Swaffham was rocky, but, in the end, I felt like we forged a friendship. I looked forward to continuing to get to know the doctor over the Twitter for many years to come.

    I woke this morning with a splitting headache which I attribute to my dreadful jaw condition — a condition the doctor has been trying to help me with these last few weeks. I wonder if my body was sending me a message that the doctor had passed.

    Rest in peace, Dr. O.

  2. Alan Liddell says:

    We’ll miss you, Dr. Oblivion.

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