How I Know I’m Getting the Right Degree

This time around, I keep running across these great books that I simply MUST add to my library. Halelujah, they’re not even textbooks.

I’m working on my history biography paper (I settled on Karl Barth), and so yesterday I checked out a 2-foot stack of books by and about him, and started reading. I figured I’d start light, so I began with a small little book called [My Father-In-Law](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0915138840) by Max Zellweger-Barth who, by some strange coincidence, happens to be Karl Barth’s son-in-law. Apparently Max occasionally told stories about his father-in-law, the great theologian, at dinner parties and other get-togethers, until his friends all convinced him that he should add his bit to the legend. So, with his wife’s help, he did.

It’s a delightful book, barely 50 pages long, filled with all sorts of delightful vignettes you aren’t likely to get out of an intellectual 3-volume tome. Two favorites:

For some time, Barth lived in an area where he had to take a streetcar to get to his lectures at the university. Sitting in the streetcar, he found he couldn’t help but stare at the ads pasted up on the inside of the car. This was sometime around the early sixties, so you can [imagine](http://www.lileks.com/institute/index.html) what those must have been like. Determined not to let his mind go to waste on the ride, he started to write his own, which he sent to Max, titled:”Suggestions for advertising specialists, prepared while traveling routes 15 and 16 of the Basel Transit Comission.” The book includes about 15 of them, in the original German, and translated into English. I got a hoot out of “the great 20th century theologian” writting little ad copy couplets on the trolley:

> Als bessern Hern mich jeder kennt
> Ich putz mich nur mit *Pepsodent*.

> (‘A better man’ – so says each friend,
> Since I use only pepsodent)

> Ich esse *Samosan* am Morgen
> Und bin dann weiter ohne Sorgen.

> (I enjoy Samosan for the morrow
> and move about quite without sorrow.)

> Ich esse *dauernd* Samosan
> Sieht man mirs nicht von Weitem an?

> (In fact I eat it night and day.
> It shows from even far away.)

Unfortunately I have no idea what Samosan was.

The other amusing one I liked was that, once Karl Barth’s grandson Dieter was in highschool, Barth would have him come over for lunch once a week for a long private conversation. City politics and school were discussed, along with music and the state of things in the family (given in terms of a weather forcast).

> We parents grew more circumspect at that time in our own conversations since everything eventually reached the Bruderholz (Karl Barth’s Home) in an expanded version.
>Fortunately I quickly discovered and cancelled a further condition which had been added to those conversations without my knowledge. It was called “things concerning which you father stated: you need not necessarily tell this to your grandfather.”

I howled quite silently in the library at that one.

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