On Bach’s birthday I’ve been thinking about the smartest people I ever met, mostly because the very smartest person I ever met, Doug Hofstadter, introduced me to stereo headphones, playing Bach.
My father, the second smartest person I’ve ever met, was friends with his father (who won the Nobel Prize in physics, so he was pretty smart too and though I met him briefly I can’t claim to have experienced his intelligence firsthand). Anyway, my mother and I visited the Hofstadters once in California, when I was 19 and Doug was a few years younger*. He put Bach on, plugged the headphones in, and put them on my head. Each ear was different. I was entranced.
Then, of course, he went on to write Gödel, Escher,Bach, which I understood about 1/16 of (and had to skip the formulas).
When my daughter was born my mother asked me what I wished for her. I said, “I hope she’s smart.” My mother said, “Oh, I hope she’s happy.” Pretty smart too, my mother.
*whoops! My clever friend Terry wikipediaed him, and he’s actually 4 months older than I! He seemed younger, in my memory at least.