I was in Texas one summer during my college years and noticed in a music journal that an organ professor from Yale was shortly giving a concert in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I was thinking about going to Yale and wanted to meet him. At the same time Daddy wanted to borrow a disc plow from Uncle J.L. in north Arkansas. So, I drove Daddy’s El Camino, which was a kind of car with a truck bed in back, to north Arkansas and picked up the plow . Then, for the only time in my life, I drove through Memphis on Elvis Presley Boulevard and went south of Memphis, stopping to a visit a college friend who lived in Olive Branch, Mississippi. Then I went further into Mississippi, turned east and drove on to Tuscaloosa. After the concert I headed straight west across half of Alabama, and through Mississippi and Louisiana, and finally returned to central Texas. Daddy got his plow and I met the professor. Of course, I did not end up going to Yale, but did see New Haven when I went to audition.
The plow did not bother the professor from Yale. But he was astonished, utterly amazed, at the distance I had driven to meet him. On the other hand, I thought nothing of it really because, being from Texas, my perspective on distance was so much different than his. There are counties in Texas bigger than states in New England.
Earlier this evening I was randomly scanning the offering on youtube and came across a woman, who I think was Pakistani, but who grew up in Norway, talking about the profound problems of young Muslims in Europe. I think she was saying that often their cultures are telling them one thing, and life around them is saying another. The speaker gave a very graphic example of a woman of about 20 who was killed by people in her culture because she violated its ethic. The speaker said that there were countless other examples of this sort.
When I hear about such situations, I feel that I have had a charmed life indeed. And it is difficult for me to almost justify my blessings. While this person in the lady’s example was brutalized and killed at a young age, I am here at age 66 doing not too badly. So, the question is, “How do I put the great disparities in life in perspective?”
I was attending a seminar at which a Protestant pastor, a Jewish rabbi, and a Muslim man of faith were speaking. A young lady very calmly and politely asked them, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Two of the men had no real answer, but one, the rabbi, replied, “It is a mystery.” And, as inadequate as that answer might sound, it is perhaps the best we can do from a human perspective.
My perspective on travel has broadened so much that I almost fly to Germany with the comfort level that I fly to Dallas. And yet, except in a big airport like Frankfurt, I cannot testify to having been around a lot of non-Germans in Germany. For example, this past summer I attended a gathering at a huge beer garden in Schwabisch Hall, a town of about 25,000 people, and do not recall seeing one person with brown or black skin. I have heard that assimilation of one culture into another is not easy.
I played at church this morning so maybe tonight is a textbook example of what my friend was talking about when he said, “On Sunday evening your life passes before you.” My thoughts may wander everywhere before I fall asleep.