I am back from the West Coast after a quick trip made a good deal more uncertain than I would have liked by weather delays that threatened to louse up my connections, but in the end worked out all right. You are going to have to bear with me while I tell you several stories about my grandchildren. Those who are way too serious to put up with a grandfather's qvelling can pass the time reading the Grundrisse until I have reverted to my customary role as a high-domed commentator on the deeper meaning of contemporary capitalism.
The high point of the visit was of course the time I spent playing "duets" with Samuel, who at nine has just started studying the violin. He has a three-quarter size loaner on which he has learned to play the open strings [G, D, A, and E for those who are not familiar with the instrument.] He was fascinated by my viola, which is a great deal bigger, and tried it out [while my heart stood still, fearful that he might drop it.] His teacher has given him some little duets in which his part consists simply of open string notes. I played the other part [which his teacher plays, I assume] on my viola. The bizarre thing is that it sounded really nice -- like genuine music. This is a phenomenon I noticed when I was taking lessons. When my viola teacher [a really good professional violist] played a duet with me, it made me sound worlds better. Now this may not seem like much, but let me assure you, it does not get much better for a grandfather! In August, I am hosting an eighty-fifth birthday party for my big sister, Barbara, at the home of my son and daughter-in law. By then, Samuel will be playing notes and all, and we can play some real duets. Once his teacher decides that he is ready for a full-size violin, I am going to buy him a student instrument as a delayed ninth birthday present.
Samuel actually spent much of his time sitting on the floor playing out and analyzing a Karpov-Kasparov chess game with his father [who is, of course, a famous International Grandmaster.] I was astonished to discover that Samuel is completely conversant with algebraic chess notation and understands what his father is saying when Patrick reels off a series of moves by way of illustrating a possible line in the game [something I am quite incapable of, by the way.] Now, Samuel is a rabid SF Giants baseball fan, and he carries everywhere a stuffed panda called "pandabal" after Pedro Sandoval, until recently a member of the Giants team. I have to tell you, it is a trifle disorienting to see a boy hugging a stuffed panda and saying, "but what about e5 d4 c2?"
The single most extraordinary moment of my short visit, however, involved little six and a half year old Athena, who is short for her age and therefore seems even younger than she is. I was sitting alone in the living room when Athena came in carrying a colored case. She opened it and took out a rectangle of soft fuzzy cloth printed to look like a one hundred dollar bill. We had a discussion about it -- I told her not to spend it all at once, and so forth. Then she ran out to get her "wallet," from which she took some real money. She started counting it, and I watched as she privately counted on her fingers to add a five to the twenty and three ones. Finally, she informed me that she had forty-five dollars! "Where did you get it?" I asked. "From grandma and my allowance."
Well, what are grandpas for? I reached into my pocket and took out a twenty dollar bill, which I offered to her. Athena pursed her lips and very quietly said "no." "Why not?" I asked, astonished. Very quietly, she said, "It wouldn't be fair to my brother." I told her to call Samuel, and gave him a twenty also.
I do not think I have ever been prouder of anyone in my life than I was of Athena when she said, "It wouldn't be fair to my brother." I mean, I am a moral philosopher by trade, and I do not recall a sentence in the writings of Immanuel Kant or John Stuart Mill more beautiful than those seven words.
Now, as I was saying about Das Kapital.