Thursday concluded with a wonderful concert followed by dinner at a popular Vietnamese restaurant. I have some fascinating and generous relatives, let me tell you. It was great to catch up with them. We left Palo Alto at around 9:30pm and arrived home at 12:30am, exhausted. Some random thoughts:
1. The great tradition of western classical music is not dead. Dozens (if not hundreds) of dedicated Suzuki students from all over the country are “picking up the baton” – with enthusiasm.
2. The teachers were excellent. Their love for the music is utterly infectious. Passion makes the difference when it comes to teaching.
3. Amy turned to Jonathan one evening and said, “You know, we’re really not that good.” “I know”, he replied grimly. Ha! At home they are big fish in a small pond. At Stanford they are little fish in a big pond filled with lots of kids who play better than they do. A necessary humility check.
4. Jonathan told me about a conversation he had with a fellow student. This young man was very surprised to learn that not only was Amy his sister, but that Jonathan had another brother and two more sisters at home! Jonathan explained that his wasn’t a large family at all, and that he knew many other families that are much larger. The boy responded solemnly that having so many children was “irresponsible”. I had almost forgotten that many secular people consider contraception/abortion to be not merely a choice, but a moral imperative.
5. The hours I spent browsing in the university bookstore made me sad. There are too many books in the world. Most are either frivolous, or morally dangerous, or full of lies and propaganda. They are a waste of time to write, a waste of money to print, a waste of paper and ink, a waste of money to buy, a waste of time to read. I left the bookstore thinking that the world would be a better place if no more books were published for at least another generation or two. The good stuff has already been written; perhaps now is the time to actually do something worth writing about.
6. Real estate prices are still sky high in Palo Alto.
7. There is more wealth on five or six city blocks of Palo Alto than all of Glenn County.
8. I truly enjoy the intellectual and social stimulation of the big city.
9. I also enjoy the peace, simplicity and relative isolation of farm life.
10. I know that I can’t have both.
11. Even in an elite context like Stanford University, standards of dress have fallen so abysmally low that it is impossible to imagine how they will ever recover.
12. Do not hurry down carpeted stairways with bare feet.
13. The school cafeteria brought back lots of bad memories. And it’s hard to eat cafeteria food once you are used to homegrown food and home-cooked meals.
14. “Gettysburg” is not anywhere near as good as “Gods and Generals”.
One high point of the week was meeting the enigmatic Ted Chan of The New Beginning. He’s an impressively well-read, intelligent, and thoughtful Catholic gentleman, but his modesty and kindness put you instantly at ease in his presence. I enjoyed our conversation immensely.
As we were eating lunch yesterday a nice Chinese girl came up to our table and asked if we would take a survey. We agreed, and she gave us each a piece of paper with a number of questions about same-sex marriage. We answered the questions, some of which were loaded with problematic assumptions. She asked me about my answer to the question about whether I thought homosexuality was innate or learned. I said it could be either, depending on the person, but that it was really beside the point. As an example I mentioned that some people are born with predispositions to alcoholism or other addictions, but that doesn’t mean they are condemned to a life of substance abuse – they can still control and choose their behaviors, and very often overcome their destructive propensities. “But doesn’t that mean they can’t be happy?” she asked. No, says I, happiness is not doing what you want: happiness is doing what is right. She smiled, nodded, and seemed to understand. Mr. Chan commented that we were probably the only two people on campus to answer the questions the way we did.
I don’t think Mr. Chan will mind if I mention that he is working on a big project right now and could use your prayers. He’s certainly got mine.