Speed Reads

Don't Drive Like My Brother

Watch late Car Talk host Tom 'Click' Magliozzi discuss immortality

Tom Magliozzi, co-host of NPR's Car Talk along with brother Ray, didn't live forever — even though "Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers" may well achieve immortality in audio archives. But it doesn't seem like he'd have wanted to. Magliozzi, who died Monday at age 77 from complications of Alzheimer's, pooh-poohed the idea in his and Ray's joint 1999 commencement address to their alma mater, MIT.

You can watch the entire speech below — it's almost an hour, twice as long as scheduled — but two parts seem particularly relevant and valedictory today. The first, starting at about the 41-minute mark, is a disquisition by Tom about his theory of "reverse incarnation" — you come back as a dog, then a cow, then a worm — and the wisdom of not getting smarter as the path to enlightenment, plus examples of how that changed his life:

Tom: As you know, there is a process for reaching nirvana and we are going to give it to you now. It is this: You must repeat the mantra. And the mantra, which happens to be emblazoned on our flag, which stands here — none of your morons will be able to read it because it's in Latin.Ray: It says: Non impediti ratione cogitatonis.Tom: Which, of course, means: Unencumbered by the thought process.... If you repeat this mantra, what happens is everything slows down. Life slows down. Being unencumbered by the thought process allows you to identify and hear and see defining moments in your life, things that will change your life. [1999 MIT Commencement]

Ray and Tom end the speech talking about a "wise man from the east," meaning East Boston, with the improbable name Depak Fonzarelli:

Ray: Tommy and I go to him from time to time to learn the answers to weighty questions like, what is the meaning of life?... And we went to him recently and Tommy and I sat with him and Tom asked him how he could attain immortality. Deepak sat for a minute. He got up and turned off the TV. Baywatch had just ended. And he said, my son, if you wish to attain immortality, you must do the following: You must work hard every day seven days a week, never taking time off. You must attend no social functions. You must not smoke. You must not drink. And you must not go with women. Never have we received a definitive answer to any of our questions. We were astounded. And Tommy asks, and Tommy asks...Tom: I say to Depak, you mean if I do those things I will live forever?Ray: Oh no, my son, he said, it will just seem like forever. Have fun. Enjoy the ride and don't drive like my brother. [1999 MIT Commencement]

After knowing Click and Clack by their voices (and laughs), it's fun to watch them in person. The part about Fonzarelli and immortality starts at about the 51-minute mark. --Peter Weber