An improvised life

I was taken by surprise today when I came across an obituary of Clifford Geertz. While I only knew him through his writing, the news felt like the death of an old friend. Hurrying to google I rediscovered a lecture he gave in 1999, “A Life of Learning”. As it turns out it is as good a memorial to a life well lived as anyone could have written. I include its beginning and end as a taster and urge you to read the bits between:
“It is a shaking business to stand up in public toward the end of an improvised life and call it learned. I didn’t realise, when I started out, after an isolate childhood, to see what might be going on elsewhere in the world, that there would be a final exam. I suppose that what I have been doing all these years is piling up learning. But, at the time, it seemed to me that I was trying to figure out what to do next, and hold off a reckoning: reviewing the situation, scouting out the possibilities, evading the consequences, thinking through the thing again. You don’t arrive at many conclusions that way, or not any that you hold to for very long, so summing it all up before God and Everybody is a bit of a humbug. A lot of people don’t quite know where they are going, I suppose; but I don’t even know, for certain, where I have been. But, all right already. I’ve tried virtually every other literary genre at one time or another. I might as well try Bildungsroman.”
“I am, as I imagine you can tell from what I’ve been saying, and the speed at which I have been saying it, not terribly good at waiting, and I will probably turn out not to handle it at all well. As my friends and co-conspirators age and depart what Stevens called “this vast inelegance,” and I, myself, stiffen and grow uncited, I shall surely be tempted to intervene and set things right yet once more. But that, doubtless, will prove unavailing, and quite possibly comic. Nothing so ill-befits a scholarly life as the struggle not to leave it, and—Frost, this time, not Hopkins—”no memory of having starred/can keep the end from being hard.” But for the moment, I am pleased to have been given this chance to contrive my own fable and plead my own case before the necrologists get at me. No one should take what I have been doing here as anything more than that.”