Thank You Letter to Art Mirsky
hand delivered
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Written, printed, and hand carried to Art Mirksy, my initial geology mentor after my Dad. Art (Dr. Mirsky to me) set up the IUPUI geology department. He was honored at a luncheon in Indianapolis May 19, 2012 (announcement at right). I attended to hand him this letter. Mark Wilkerson, Ken Eggert, Bruce Sydner, and I were the first graduates from the department in 1971. Dr. Mirsky died two weeks after I was able to deliver this thank-you letter.

May 15, 2012

Dr. Mirsky, Thank you.

You exposed me to ideas and guided me on how to interpret them, kindling my love, since childhood, with “what is”. Since Sputnik, ’57 and 5th grade, as I recall, I had set my sights on physics, nuclear of course, the darling of the post war II “serious” intelligentsia, at least in an 11 year old’s eyes. Alas, physics 100 and three-dimensional vector math threw me for a loop during the first few weeks of my freshman year. Oops, a seven year old dream and purpose shattered. So I wandered in the social sciences, quite beneficially, for a while. However, I found and still find consensus about anything quite lacking there, and “what is” requires consensus, at least it seems to me. One semester during my lost wanderings I selected three interesting sounding courses, Comparative Religions, TV and Broadcast Journalism, and Geology 101. The journalism course was a total bust. You may remember the “we can’t teach anything, learning must come from within” movement in the late 60’. Well, that was the journalism co urse, and I learned little, except that good teaching is critical to learning. That ended my aspirations to be a newsman. The other two courses that semester planted seeds that continue to grow. The Geology course, no, you showed me a science[*] that can be approached in large part qualitatively, descriptively, and amenable to my understanding despite my limited mathematical prowess[†]. You, your style, your subject all resonated with my abilities and refocused my attention on physics; home again. And I’ve never looked back since, thank you Art for sending me on my way. That other course? Well, it introduced me to the great eastern stoics and I’ve never looked back there either. So, that semester, which you are intimately and forever a big part of for me, was seminal for my life in pursuit of ......, hmmm ....., well, some call it God, others god, some truth, some good and right, some random motion or transferred momentum created at the big bang, some call her Ananke, the Greek goddess of cause, effect , necessity, and destiny, some call it the first cause, other yet chaos and void, Descarte called it “me”, Lao Tzu, “the way”, others .............., well, you get the picture ...... in pursuit of that, whatever that is. I just call it “what is” or “the way of things”. Along the way, I have honed my observational skills and greatly expanded and contracted and re-expanded my repertoire of alternative explanatory hypotheses for those things not yet known, of which there are plenty left. And it all started on the second floor of a dark red brick building on 10th street as I recall, with the relief map of the Colorado Plateaus, the paint worn off Molly’s Nipple. So thank you, Art, thank you for pointing the way at a critical time in my life, by the way, the right way.

Scott Sinnock, ‘71

[*][*] A group of people who share considerable consensus about what is known and what is not known; procedures to establish those conditions (note, the group may also share some consensus about what is knowable; beliefs that have historically often been wrong). Things are usually restricted in scope to a subset of human knowledge, a nebulously bounded body of thoughts, e.g. about rocks and related things.
[†] Bruce Synder and I coached each other through calculus 100 after each failing or dropping it in lieu of failing on an earlier try. Somehow I got into Purdue’s science school with only that one semester of calculus, though the school required two semesters at the time, at least as remedial coursework, but they missed my lack of a second semester, so I have only had one.

Art (Dr.) Mirsky
Included in Email to Mark Wilkerson, 20120823