What a delicious evening. Last night, David Walker, a well-known Australian public intellectual and the head of the Australian Studies Center at Peking University, his delightful wife Karen kindly invited me and my Chinese sister Catherine (born to different parents) to dinner at Capital M, my favorite restaurant in Beijing.
We laughed so much that some customers complained (David remarked that those people should have complained about the thunder which was much louder than us). It is hard not to laugh in David’s company. He got a great sense of humour. And he is such a remarkable man: although ‘legally blind’, he seems to be able to carry on a normal and productive life.
In 2004, David lost his eye sight and became ‘legally blind’. This made him, a historian, rethink what kinds of history he was able to write. His latest book Not Dark Yet, is filled with historical and personal stories. We got to know David parents, both teachers, the grandparents and some highly interesting relatives, such as Luka Day, who married into Walker family and who was one of the first Chinese went to Australian and Laurie, an uncle who, while serving in the army during the Second World War, was executed for desertion. Of course, there’s David’s own story. These personal stories also reflect Australia’s contemporary history. The book is very much like David himself, modest, charming, witty and very humorous.
When a doctor declared him ‘legally blind’, David immediately asked: what is illegally blind? The answer is: some people do fake being blind. At his father’s funeral, he gave a speech. He gave such a good speech that people questioned if he was really blind. He commented that he didn’t realize the connection between a speech and one’s vision.
I returned home, thinking about David, his eye sight and life. I think as long as we are not too blind to see what we have in life, we’ll be fine.