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Shoulders of a giant
When I read Marjorie Centofanti's insightful article ["Theme and Variations," February], I was especially touched by the quote from Jephta Piatigorsky Drachman: "My father often said you don't choose music; it chooses you. He also said you don't go into music because you want to be a great soloist. You do it because you have to make art significant for people. To do that, you have to bring it to them."
When I was about 4 years old, Gregor Piatigorsky played a concert at Southern Illinois University. Several of the music students at SIU were frequent babysitters for my younger brother and me. They were in charge of the post-concert reception for the guest artist, and they invited me to attend and "to bring my parents along."
During that very adult social event, my mother lost track of me for a moment. When she found me, out in the hallway, I was sitting on Piatigorsky's shoulders getting a ride as the famous cellist galloped through the corridors. In later years, whenever Mother shared her recollections of that scene, she always mentioned that the cellist's concert tails were flying behind him and my legs were stretched straight out in front of me as I tried to keep my patent leather shoes from leaving dirty marks on Piatigorsky's dress shirt. I was told later that he had a child who was just about my age, and it was clear to my parents that he was missing his daughter and had welcomed an opportunity after the concert to frolic a bit with another little girl. Like many musicians of the 20th century, I was greatly influenced by Piatigorsky, but I chuckle to realize that I literally can claim "to have ridden on his shoulders."
Decades later, that ride remains one of my most special
memories. Like many people who listened to Piatigorsky's
performances, I felt fortunate that he had brought music to
me and had made his art significant to all of us who heard
him that evening. I like to imagine that Mr. Piatigorsky,
before returning to an empty hotel room in a small town in
Southern Illinois, had as much fun after his concert as I
In your last issue you highlighted professor Walter Stephens, who called Lucretius' On the Nature of Things the most underrated great book ["The Big Question," February]. He cited his interest in the spiritual purpose of the book, i.e., to "educate people out of the fear of death." He esteemed the poem's moral purpose, which he said was, "Nothing will happen to you after death because there will be no you for anything to happen to."
In my opinion, perhaps it is a good thing this book was lost for 1,400 years. Maybe this book makes for good, interesting reading, but another book that is my favorite most underrated great book deals also with freedom from the fear of death: "Since the children have flesh and blood, He [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death" (Hebrews 2:14, 15). My favorite book is, of course, the Bible, and deals intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, and finally with the fear of death. I was personally held captive by the fear of death for the first 26 years of my life. I was completely set free from the fear of death after reading and believing the words in the Bible, which pointed to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who did set me free. That was 17 years ago. I no longer fear death, and I respectfully and worshipfully fear the One True God, but I have no fear of "the gods."
I hope that your Great Books course includes the greatest
and most impacting book of all history, the Bible. Hopkins'
motto, "The truth will set you free," is actually taken
from a verse in the Bible, which says, "Jesus said, 'If you
hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you
will know the truth, and the truth will set you free'"
(John 8:31, 32). This is a life-changing book.
I agree electronic voting has too many problems to be used now for elections ["E-lective Alarm," February]. The ability to invade the system is too risky for us to tolerate this method until safeguards are in place and proven to be safe.
I did note a slight bias to your report. You said the 2000
election between Gore and Bush was "decided by the U.S.
Supreme Court, to the dissatisfaction of millions." Really?
How about "to the satisfaction of millions"? You should
have put a period after Supreme Court. That way you would
not have appeared to take sides in the controversy.
Writer Dale Keiger offers an update: Since last issue's article about Aviel Rubin of Hopkins' Information Security Institute, there have been developments in the computer voting debate. Last February, the Pentagon announced it was canceling a $22-million Internet voting project after the system's security was criticized by a panel of computer-security experts that included Rubin. The Pentagon had created the security panel to evaluate a pilot program that would have permitted 100,000 overseas military and civilian personnel to vote via the Internet in the 2004 presidential election. Rubin and his co-panelists reported that the system was vulnerable to insider programmer attacks and a host of Internet-related risks.
In another development, in response to Rubin's original report, the state of Maryland invited a team of computer experts to try to hack the terminals that it planned to deploy for the state primary in March and the national elections planned for November. The security-analysis team, assembled by RABA Technologies, produced a report in January that said, "The State of Maryland election system (comprising technical, operational, and procedural components), as configured at the time of this report, contains considerable security risks that can cause moderate to severe disruption in an election. However, each of these vulnerabilities has a mitigating recommendation that can be implemented in time for the March 2004 primary. With all these near-term recommendations in place, we feel, for this primary, that the system will accurately render the election and is worthy of voter trust. However, between the March and November elections we strongly feel that additional actions must be taken to mitigate increasing risks incumbent on a system that will receive broad scrutiny."
In your February issue, you wrote that Hopkins senior Wen
Shi became the only Rhodes Scholar to be elected from
Maryland this year
Hopkins," p. 14]. However, my older brother, David
Robinson — a senior at Princeton University —
was elected the only Rhodes Scholar from the state of
Maryland. David applied in our home state, Maryland, where
he was educated in the public school system from
kindergarten through 12th grade. Wen Shi applied in his
home state, Michigan. They were each elected in their
respective state and regional competitions. You apparently
meant to express that Shi was the only Rhodes Scholar to be
elected this year while attending an institution of higher
education in Maryland, Johns Hopkins University. David, an
editor at the Daily Princetonian, plans to examine
the role that philosophy plays in the media during his
pursuit of a degree in moral philosophy. I wish both David
and Wen Shi the best of luck at Oxford.
The magazine regrets the error.
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