I sat on my tall stool behind the counter in my parents’ music store, looking past my open history textbook to the dirty snow and paper trash blowing down the street in the darkening afternoon. A lone figure shuffled down the opposite sidewalk, past the jewelry store, and stopped on the corner in front of the drug store at the stoplight, his helmeted head cast down, waiting for the traffic light to turn. I scanned a few more paragraphs in my textbook until he entered, heralded by a chorus of automated door chimes and blown in by a gust of frozen air.
Although I have always considered myself a fairly unconventional person, I wanted a diamond ring when I became engaged to be married. To please me, my fiancé visited the Diamond District in New York City and (with the help of his mother) picked out a round, 1.5-carat diamond with a yellow gold band. I wear it as I write, 28 years later.
In the early years of my marriage, some of my female students would come up to me after class and compliment me on my ring. I don’t know if it was the diamond they were admiring or the fact that I had managed to get myself married. In time, the compliments diminished. Whether because my ring was less impressive or because marriage seemed less of an accomplishment to the new generation is hard to say.
Philosophy is disappearing from our college curricula. Our students are graduating without first being stuffed with Plato and Descartes and Hegel. While we used to teach students critical thinking through philosophy, we have replaced the Socratic method with the scientific method. Really, the idea of 19-year-olds discussing Truth and Beauty and Love seems so decadent these days, doesn’t it? It certainly does to those running our universities. But that’s the best age at which to wrestle abstract concepts — the world is new and terrifying, yet you’re (hopefully) still coddled enough to find the time to read Fear and Trembling.
When you’re 30 and your brain is preoccupied with mundane things like making money, cooking dinner, and doing the dishes, sitting down with Plato to contemplate the nature of love just for kicks feels a little absurd. I dropped out of college before I could get around… More…