We all draw inspiration from women whose names make the headlines and whose stories are in the history books, but often our greatest inspiration comes from our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, and friends.
I was proud my father spoke Arabic fluently - his father sent him to learn Arabic from a sheikh - and we had Arab friends. His task of understanding the Arabs - not only politics but poetry - was very important; he took it as a vocation.
Some of my academic friends think I've fallen from a very special grace.
When I think about atheist friends, including my father, they seem to me like people who have no ear for music, or who have never been in love.
Watching a whole cluster of friends, and my own mother, die over quite a short space of time convinced me that purely materialist 'explanations' for our mysterious human existence simply won't do - on an intellectual level.
That's a wonderful change that's taken place, and so most poetry today is published, if not directly by the person, certainly by the enterprise of the poet himself, working with his friends.
Music is the only passion I shamelessly indulge in. However, for recreation I enjoy watching movies. 'Wizard of Oz' was the first film I ever saw, followed by the 'Bond' movies. I also watch a lot of World cinema through DVDs mostly brought by one of my best friends who's now based in Toronto.
For a long time, I felt instinctively irritated - sometimes repelled - by scientific friends' automatic use of the word 'mechanism' for automatic bodily processes. A machine was man-made; it was not a sentient being; a man was not a machine.
Both for my wife and myself, the personal friendships that have grown out of scientific contacts with colleagues from many different countries have been an important part of our lives, and the travels we have made together in connection with the world-wide scientific co-operation have given us rich treasures of experiences.
Big Red Machine is really a community effort: I guess it involves almost 30 musicians. It does come out of our friendship, but it's really something that is deeply collaborative.