Monday, August 11, 2008

"Tell me more, Herr Bauer"

Yesterday, I gave a little party for my old friend Ken, who, these days, is a professor of philosophy in the California State University system. He was a student in my very first philosophy class when I started at Irvine Valley College twenty-two years ago. Back then, Ken was kind of wild, a "headbanger," he said. But he seemed to love what I was doing in class—"I couldn't get rid of him," I reminded him—and he was as smart as a whip.

I recall bringing young Ken to hear the communitarian philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre at nearby CSU Fullerton. On another occasion, I took him to a colloquium at the University of Redlands. He and I somehow ended up going to dinner with the honored guest along with the usual departmental suspects. I think Ken got a bit drunk and started throwing bagels around or something. Good grief.

He's still a bit of a wild man, I guess, but he's a damned good philosopher and a great teacher too. I'm proud of 'im.

Yesterday, he arrived with his fiancé, who is a wonderful person, and young Mortimer, who is also a wonderful person, albeit of the canine variety. I was feeling good about all of this wonderfulness. It was a warm summer night, and we enjoyed the quiet and our view of the Santa Ana Mountains.

I've been corresponding with a student from last semester—another big talent, it seems to me, as a writer. He's been in the Army (more than once in Iraq), and now he's going to school and loving it. He has a great little family, and lots of dreams.

He was there, too.

He brought his wife, another survivor of Army life, who teaches and who hopes to continue her education. We're all very pleased that that new "GI Bill of Rights" passed. That will be a great help to so many deserving young people.

I recall being an undergraduate, back in the 70s, hanging out with a group of students that played volleyball on Friday afternoons. One of the regulars was a very well-known philosopher of religion, who loved to be around young people. Often, a gang of us would end up at his funky little place in Laguna Beach. We'd drink and eat and sing and talk about philosophy—and everything else. Very incorrect, I suppose. He had an old Gibson guitar on which he'd sing his "talkin' blues," if we insisted.

I also recall when the famous German philosopher, Carl Hempel, visited the university for a few months—a guest, I recall, of the philosophy club, which managed to snag some kind of grant. He seemed to me at the time to be a very old and very wise man. (I now realize that he was only 73. That ain't so old!)

I recall telling him about Bob Dylan, on a balcony high above Laguna Beach, on a warm summer night. "Tell me more, Herr Bauer," he would say. He seemed genuinely interested.

I do hope that I have been as encouraging to my students as some of my old professors were to me.


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