This I Believe

Matthew - Oakland, California
Entered on September 24, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

I was born the same month as Adam Sandler, Selma Hayek, and Arnold Schoenberg. I was born the day Balthazar Johannes Vorster became the new South African Prime Minister, and TASS reported on clashes between members of the Chinese Communist Party and the Red Guards.

When I attended UC Berkeley, as many alumnae know, you more often than not were notified by the university that even though signed up for a well-rounded matrix of required coursework, you received none of them. So when the time came to attend class, that became a problem.

If you ever wondered why so many Berkeley grads took Anglo-Saxon and American Literature Before 1800, the difficulty of finding credits could be a reason.

Mine started out that way: feeling as if I’d dripped down into the academic oil pan of the University. But I my Anglo-Saxon teacher was a guy named Alain Renoir.

He loved to tell stories. One day he told the class a story of when he fought in World War II. He was a navigator on one of those flying fortress things. He wasn’t scheduled to fly that day, which was too bad because he knew he’d be flying with his childhood friend.

The allies gave the bomber bad directions, and they bombed god-knows-whom and then were blown to friendly smithereens by friendly fire.

All through the story, Professor Renoir — oh yeah, son of that Renoir and grandson of that Renoir — showed no regret, no coldness, no sentimentality. It was a terrible thing to happen that was clear. And one to learn from, was what I got.

Right after class, a student accosted him about her grade on her last paper. He listened to the argument with same intensity with which he told the story. I stood off at a distance having planned previously to thank him for the story. I could hear the student from 30 feet away. But after the student skulked away, I left.

Being a musician (I think it was an English Department requirement to be in a band if you were white and male), I walked away with the word “Harmony” in my head.