Sounds of Silence

Sounds of Silence
I was airborne, flying back to the States for Christmas when a car accident took the life of my student Luat Minh Vu.
When word reached me in New York that Leo, as he was known to all of us, was dead I broke down in tears. Images of his 18 year old still baby face and clever smile mixed with the pictures of the carnage in Newtown. Death should not come at such ages, but it does.
Leo was my student for classes in American Culture as well as Logic and Critical Thinking, subjects that would confound even a native English speaker. We ruminated over the arguments for and against the existence of God with equal logic and fervor; discussed figures lying and liars figuring; and exposed the myriad fallacies of daily existence – the slippery slope, correlation vs. causation, the Lake Woebegone effect, false dichotomies, false authority and more.
Over the semester I watched Leo grow from a handsome but academically incurious young man into someone for whom the lamp of learning was being lit.
One day Leo lapsed and I chided him for missing an assignment telling him “Leo, you have two choices – do the assignment and get a good grade or don’t do it and get a poor grade”. He smiled an impish smile and said “Sir, that is a false dichotomy; I could do the assignment poorly so that’s a third choice”. The class laughed as did I, giving him a high five for his efforts.
My last memories of him were on a class outing; an overnight in the countryside of Cu Chi. Around a traditional bonfire the students sang songs – in Vietnamese, English, even a French offering. Daniel and Leo asked me to sing something and they suggested “Sounds of Silence”. I was surprised that 18 year olds in Vietnam knew the song or the words and I obliged.
I think of that today; of “hello darkness my old friend” and the importance of every moment, every experience and taking time to smell the flowers and enjoy every bahn mi (sandwich).


About Dr. Roy Nirschel

Thirty years experience as an educator; international traveler, occasional writer, on a personal journey. Author of My Seasons in Saigon (available at Upon the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States I promised to go to Mexico; I did! Carol and I are here now. In the spirit of full disclosure, I promised to go to Mexico if Hillary Clinton was elected president too. The Seasons in Saigon are over; I am uncertain about Vietnam for many reasons despite my love for the country. Now it is Mexico time.

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