Today at noon I had the privilege of having lunch with my friend and former college philosophy professor, Dr. Clifford Williams. I climbed the familiar stairs to his office in the academic building and found him in his usual chair. After a warm reunion hug, I took my usual place in the old lumpy chair across from his and we began: Lunch, conversation, a return to friendship as it once was.
Cliff is one of those people who gives you space to be yourself, which I think makes some people feel a bit uncomfortable in his presence. He tends to lay aside social norms and expectations that most conversations hold, like saying the "right thing" or acting as adults must act--he's childlike, but deep. Life's pace is slow for him, in true philosopher form, and so conversations with him have quiet lulls to think and respond. When we talk I feel the freedom to ask him anything. He is gracious in his response, and honest: two qualities that seem rare these days. He doesn't seem pressured to be a certain way or say what he thinks I want to hear, and clearly doesn't expect that from me either.
It was good to be there--I felt refreshed and able to be myself. I heard about his travels in South America, thoughts on family interactions, and how when a student cheats he feels betrayed. I wish everyone could have an hour of time in Cliff's office. Here's a picture of us (eee, so off-center!) and a silly one I took on the sly of him adjusting the tripod. :)