In continuing my blasts from the past, this seemed appropriate to remember on the 4th of July.
This event occurred last year at a conference hosted at the UN in Vienna.
I just had dinner at a small heurigen deep in the Austrian countryside. There was a group of about twenty of us, but we where seated in sixes at tables with long benches on each side. On my right was an Israeli, on my left a man from Yemen, across from me a Swiss, kiddy–corner left an Iraqi, kiddy-corner right a Kenyan. We talked about the food, the olympics, and flies. Heurigen are small household owned wineries that sell their own label, but me and the three Muslims did not drink so we had grape juice pressed by the Heurigen itself. The others had the wines. Me and the Swiss guy enjoyed a selection of ham slices provided to the table that the others could not eat. We all had a great meal. We laughed and enjoyed ourselves. I thought about it and was stunned for a minute. Here sat Muslim, Jew, Mormon and Christian all in deep and engaging conversation. Here sat Swiss, Israeli, American, Iraqi, Yemeni, and Kenyan. But in another way we were none of these things–these labels we pin on and use to separate ourselves one from another. We were just researchers there to discuss our work. Friends all.