Letter to The Boston Globe
The eerieness embodied in the coincidence of our recent catastrophe with the one hundredth anniversary, to the day, of my family’s beginning in America, and as expressed in the sparse and eloquent words that my grandfather, then 13, wrote on the title page of his grammar book, made this piece virtually inevitable. But I tried to write it not for personal catharis, but for its power, via a tiny and ordinary human story, to make the crucial point that such “invisible” decency must prevail by the overwhelming weight of its very “ordinaryness” — an infinitely hopeful point all too easily forgotten in this moment of crisis, and therefore in vital need of iteration and reiteration.
You have, on several previous occasions, mostly to expatiate on the fate of the Red Sox, but once last year to make a suggestion about Bush vs. Gore (I must show you a note that Steve Breyer sent me in response to that coin-flipping suggestion), granted me access to your op-ed space, and I venture now to make this request once again. If you do run this piece, and if you can include a picture on your op-ed space, the article would be so much more powerful if you could include the image of my grandfather’s words: “I have landed. September 11, 1901.” I enclose a FAX of this text, but can also send, via overnight mail, the good quality photo of this text that appeared in my last of 300 essays for Natural History magazine (although using Papa Joe’s text for a quite different reason) in January, 2001.
Stephen Jay Gould
Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, Professor of Geology, and Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University
Vincent Astor Visiting Research Professor of Biology, New York University
Co-Director, Art Science Research Lab