“We’re all intrinsically of the same substance…

From Maria Popova’s excellent Brainpickings.

“We’re all intrinsically of the same substance,”astrophysicist Janna Levin wrote in her exquisite inquiry into whether the universe is infinite or finite“The fabric of the universe is just a coherent weave from the same threads that make our bodies. How much more absurd it becomes to believe that the universe, space and time could possibly be infinite when all of us are finite.” How, then, do we set aside this instinctual absurdity in order to grapple with the concept of infinity, which pushes our creaturely powers of comprehension past their limit so violently?

That’s what the mathematician and writer Lillian R. Lieber (July 26, 1886–July 11, 1986) set out to explore more than half a century earlier in the unusual and wonderful 1953 gem Infinity: Beyond the Beyond the Beyond (public library) — one of seventeen marvelous books she published in her hundred years, inviting the common reader into science with uncommon ingenuity and irresistible warmth. Emanating from Lieber’s discussion of infinity is a larger message about what it means, and what it takes, to be a finite but complete and balanced human being.

Lillian R. Lieber

Lieber belongs to the “enchanter” category of great writers and was among the first generation of women mathematicians to hold academic positions in her role chairing the Department of Mathematics at Long Island University. She had a peculiar style resembling poetry, though she insisted it was not free verse but, rather, a deliberate way of breaking lines in order to speed up reading and intensify comprehension. (Curiously, I find her style to have precisely the opposite effect, which is why I’ve enjoyed it so tremendously — it does what poetry does, which is slow down the spinning world and dilate the pupil of attention so that the infinite becomes comprehensible.)

Populating her books is the character of T.C. Mits, “the Celebrated Man-in-the-Street,” and his mate, Wits, “the Woman-in-the-Street.” Accompanying Lieber’s writing are original line drawings by her own mate, the illustrator Hugh Gray Lieber.

Lieber’s work was so influential in elevating the popular science genre that even Albert Einstein himself heartily praised her book on relativity, yet many of her books have fallen out of print — no doubt because the depth, complexity, and visionary insurgency of her style don’t conform to the morass of formulaic mediocrity passing for popular science writing today.

Lieber frames the premise of Infinity in the charming opening verse — or, as she insisted, decidedly not-verse — of the second chapter:

Of course you know that
the Infinite
is a subject which
has always been of the deepest interest
to all people —
to the religious,
to poets,
to philosophers,
to mathematicians,
as well as to
T.C. Mits
(The Celebrated Man-in-the-Street)
and to his mate,
(the Woman-in-the-Street).
And it probably interests you,
or you would not be reading this book.

But it is in the first chapter, titled “Our Good Friend, Sam,” that Lieber’s genius for science, metaphor, and wordplay shines most brilliantly as she takes on everything from the symbiotic relationship between art and science to free will to the vital difference between common sense and truth to the evils of antisemitism and all exclusionary ideologies. (It is self-evident to point out that Lieber, a Jewish woman writing shortly after WWII in a climate of acute antisemitism and sexism, was, like any artist, bringing all of herself to her art.)

Lieber writes:

For those who have not met SAM before,
I wish to summarize
what his old acquaintances
may already know,
and then to tell to all of you
MORE about him.
In the first place,
the name “SAM”
was first derived from
Science, Art, Mathematics;
but I now find
the following interpretation
much more helpful:
the “S” stands for
please note that
I do NOT say
that “S” represents “facts” or “reality”,
the only knowledge we can have of
the outside world
is through our own senses or
“extended” senses —
like microscopes and telescopes et al
which help us to see better,
or radios, etc., which
help us to hear sounds
which we would otherwise
not be aware of at all,
and so on and so on.

But of course
there may be
many, many more things
in the world
which we do not yet perceive
either directly through our senses
or with the aid of
our wonderful inventions.
And so it would be
Quite arrogant
to speak as if we knew
what the outside world “really” is.
That is why I wish to give to “S”
the more modest interpretation
and emphasize that
it represents merely
that PART of the OUTSIDE world
which we are able to contact, —
and therefore even “S” has
a “human” element in it.

the “A” in SAM represents
our emotions, —
loves, hates, fears, etc. —
and of course is also
a “human” element.

And the “M” represents
our ability to draw inferences,
and hence includes
mathematics, logic, “common sense”,
and other ways in which
we mentally derive the “consequences”
before they hit us.
So the “M” too is
a “human” element.

Thus SAM is entirely human
though not an individual human being.

a Scientist utilizes the SAM within him,
for he must make
“observations” (“S”),
he must use his “intuition” (“A”)
to help him formulate
a good set of basic postUlates,
from which his “reasoning powers” (“M”)
will then help him to
derive conclusions
which in turn must again be
“tested” (“S” again!) to see
if they are “correct”.

Perhaps you are thinking that
SAM and the Scientist
are really one and the same,
and that all I am doing is
to recommend that we all become
But you will soon see that
this is not the case at all.
in the first place,
it too often happens, —
alas and alack! —
that when a Scientist is
not actually engaged in doing
his scientific work,
he may “slip” and not use
his “S”, his “A”, and his “M”,
so carefully,
will bear watching,
like the rest of us.

In a sentiment which physicist and poet Alan Lightman would come to echo decades later in his beautiful meditation on the creative sympathies of art and science, Lieber adds:

So, you see,
being a SAMite and being a Scientist
are NOT one and the same.

a SAMite may not be a Scientist at all,
but an Artist!
For an Artist, too, must use
his “S” in order to “observe” the world,
his “A” (“intuition”) to sense
some basic ways to translate his
and his “M”
to derive his “results” in the form of
drawings, music, and so on.
Thus an Artist, too,
is a SAMite.

Perhaps Lieber’s most interesting, layered, and timelessly relevant discussion is of the concept of freedom, its misconceptions and mutations, and its implication for our private, public, and political lives:

Now consider a person
who is SOMETIMES or OFTEN like this:
He is evidently relying very heavily on
his “intuition”, his “hunches”, his “emotions”,
hardly checking to see whether
the “observations” of the outside world (“S”)
and his own reasoning powers (“M”)
show his “hunch” to be correct or not!
And so,
precious as our “intuition” may be,
it can go terribly “haywire”
if not checked and double-checked
by “S” and “M”.
Thus, a person who
habitually behaves like this
is allowing his “S” and “M” to
become practically atrophied,
and is the wild, “over-emotional” type,
who is not only a nuisance to have around,
but is hurting himself and
not allowing himself to become
adjusted to the world he lives in.
Such a person,
with an exaggerated “A”,
and atrophied “S” and “M”,
has a feeling of “freedom”,
of not being held down by “S” and “M”
(“facts” and “reason”) ;
but, as you can easily see
this makes for Anarchy,
for a lack of “self-control” —
and can lead
to fatty degeneration from
feeling “free” to eat all he wants;
to the D.T.’s from
feeling “free” to drink all he wants;
to accidents because
he feels “free” to drive as fast as he wants
and to “hog” the road;
to a sadistic lack of
consideration for others
by feeling “free” to
kick them in the teeth for “nuttin’”;
to antisocial “black market” practices
from a similar feeling of “freedom”,
giving “free” reign to the “A”
without the necessary consideration of “facts” (“S”) and “reason” (“M”).
Needless to say this is a
as against
the well-balanced SAM
which is so necessary in society
in which EACH individual
must be guided by the SAM within himself
in order to avoid conflict with
the SAM in someone else.
This is something that
a bully does not understand —
that if he acts like a pathological sAm,
he induces sAmite-ism in others,
as in mob violence;
this is indeed a horrible “ism”
that can destroy a society as well as
individuals in it.

Lieber proceeds to build on this taxonomy of psychological imbalances, reminiscent of neuroscience founding father Santiago Ramón y Cajal ‘s taxonomy of the “diseases of the will.” She turns to the next imbalance — the person blinded by isolated facts, unable to integrate them into an understanding of the big picture:

there is the Sam type:
he may be called the “tourist” type —
running around seeing this and that
but without the “imagination” (“A”)
or the reasoning power (“M”)
to put his observations together
with either heart (“A”) or mind (“M”),
but is concerned only with
he is like the man who,
seeing a crowd had gathered,
wanted to know what happened.
and, when someone told him
“Ein Mann hat sich dem Kopf zerbrochen”
(It happened to be in Germany),
corrected the speaker’s grammar
and said “DEN Kopf!”
He knew his bit of grammar,
but what an inadequate reaction
under the circumstances.
don’t you think?

Next comes the flawed rationalizer, who misuses the tools of logic against reason:

And there is also the saM type —
one who can reason (“M”)
but starts with perhaps
some postulate (“A”) favoring murder.
Such a man would make
a wonderfully “rational”
homicidal maniac or crook
who could plan you a murder
calmly and rationally enough
to surprise any who are not familiar with
this sAM type of pathological case.

Lieber returns to the core purpose of her SAM metaphor and its relationship to the central question of the book:

Thus SAM gives us a way of
examining our own behavior
and that of others,
taking into account the “facts” (“S”),
and using imagination and sympathy (“A”)
in a rational way (“M”).

Are you perhaps thinking,
“Well, this may be interesting,
why all this talk about SAM,
when you are writing a book about
To which the answer is:
The yearning for Infinity,
for Immortality,
is an “intuitive” yearning (“A”):
we look for support for it
in the physical world (“S”),
we try to reason about it (“M”), —
but only when we turn
the full light of SAM upon it
are we able to make
genuine progress in considering

In a brilliant and necessary caveat reminiscent of mathematician Kurt Gödel’s world-changing incompleteness theorems, which unsettled some of our most elemental assumptions by demonstrating the limits of logic turned unto itself, Lieber adds:

There is only one more point
I must make here:
Namely, that
even being a well-balanced
SAMite —
and not a pathological anti-SAMite
like SAM, etc. etc. —
You will probably agree that
it is further necessary
to have our SAM up-to-date.
For he is a GROWING boy,
and what was good enough for him in 1800
is utterly inadequate in 1953;
and unless the “S” is up-to-date
and the postulates (“A”)
and reasoning (“M”)
are appropriately MODERN,
we cannot make proper
ADJUSTMENT in the world TODAY.
And ADJUSTMENT is what we must have.
For adjustment means
and that is a MINIMUM demand —
for, without survival
we need not bother to study anything
we just won’t be here to tell the tale.

In a passage of piercing pertinence today, as we watch various oppressive ideologies and tyrannical regimes engulf the globe, Lieber concludes by returning to the subject of freedom, its malformations, and its redemptions:

And so let me summarize
by saying that the
hurt not only themselves,
by getting “ulcers”, nervous breakdowns,
drinking excessively, etc. etc.,
but hurt others also,
for from their ranks are recruited
those who advocate war and destruction,
the homicidal maniacs, the greedy crooks,
the gamblers, the drunken drivers,
the liars, et al.


Just a word more about
you have seen above
the pathological idea of freedom,
but when you consider this important concept
from SAM’s WEll-BALANCED viewpoint,
you will see that,
from this point of view,
the “feeling” of freedom (“A”),
being supported on one side by “S”
(the “facts” of the outside world),
and on the other by “M”
(“sweet reasonableness”) —
is definitely NOT the
ANARCHICAL freedom of SAM,
but is a sort of
controlled by facts and reason
and is therefore SELF-controlled
(by the SAM within us)
and hence implies
Thus anyone who demands
“freedom unlimited” as his right,
is a pathological SAM,
a destructive creature;
in mathematics
you will find the
and you will feel refreshed to see
how genuine progress can be made
with this kind of freedom.

Infinity: Beyond the Beyond the Beyond is a thoroughly magnificent read in its totality. Pair it with the lovely children’s book Infinity and Me, then complement this particular fragment with Simone de Beauvoir, writing shortly before Lieber, on art, science, and freedom, and James Baldwin, writing shortly thereafter, on freedom and how we imprison ourselves.

HT Natalie Wolchover


Un maestru în ultimele zile ale vietii

Parintele Silvano Fausti, intervievat într-un moment când viata i se apropia de sfârsit, fiind el bolnav de cancer. Locuia într-un cartier marginas din Milano, într-o locuinta modesta, aproape de câteva familii sarace, cu care a format un fel de comunitate. Trimit pe youtube la acest interviu ca sa dau o idee celor care dibuiesc macar, ca mine, sensul unor cuvinte rostite în italiana, despre felul în care un om al credintei vede viata. Inutil sa adaug ca ideile care mai circula înca în româna despre Societatea lui Isus, adica iezuitii, sunt pure tâmpenii (foarte asemanatoare cu obsesiile conspirationiste având ca obiect catolicii în general, masonii, evreii, etc). Fireste, orice e liber sa gândeasca ce vrea…


24 giugno 2015

È morto questa mattina a Milano Silvano Fausti, 75 anni, gesuita e biblista.
Tra i fondatori della Comunità di Villapizzone, nella periferia milanese, in cui gesuiti e famiglie vivono in uno stile di condivisione, per lunghi anni ha tenuto una lettura biblica nella Chiesa di San Fedele e ha partecipato a innumerevoli iniziative della Fondazione Culturale San Fedele, editrice di 
Aggiornamenti Sociali. In particolare, ha tenuto per 8 anni una rubrica su Popoli, altra rivista dei gesuiti edita al San Fedele, che ha terminato le pubblicazioni nel 2014. Proprio in occasione di un incontro organizzato da Popoli, nel marzo 2014, padre Silvano ha scritto un testo dedicato a papa Francesco, che riproponiamo qui come ricordo e come ultimo saluto.


Il Cantico dei Cantici è un effluvio di odori. «Profumo effuso» è il Nome, da cui ogni nome. Dio è profumo: non si nega a nessuno e si dona tutti. Segno di presenza e percepibile al buio, l’odore marca l’identità di ogni singola realtà. Lo sanno bene i cani. Ricordo Mandissoba e Falcão, i due lupi del vescovo di Castanhal, in Brasile. Arrivato di notte a casa sua, mi annusarono la mano dalle fessure del recinto. L’anno dopo, arrivato alla stessa ora, mi scodinzolarono di gioia.

A fiuto anche noi distinguiamo profumo da puzza, piacere da nausea, gioia da tristezza. Vita da morte. Identità e odore di Dio è la gioia. Essa è frutto di amore corrisposto, unica possibilità di vita. Tristezza è puzza di morte, negazione di amore ricevuto e dato. Ma se è ricevuto, è naturalmente dato. «Amor ch’a nullo amato amar perdona»: è la più bella definizione di Dio. Scaturisce dalla tenebra dell’Inferno, costantemente squarciata dall’indignazione e compassione di Dante. Odio per il male e amore per il malato non sono la luce che a tutti rivela Dio?

La passione di Gesù, centro del Vangelo, è inclusa tra il profumo di Betania, che Luca anticipa, e quello del sepolcro, che Giovanni pone nel «giardino». Qui sta la camera dove dorme lo Sposo, odorante di cento libbre di profumi. Gli uomini si dividono in già e non ancora morti. Nel sepolcro tutti conveniamo. Empi o pii, lì li troviamo. È il talamo nuziale dell’incontro tra amato e amata, tra Dio e uomo, amato di amore eterno. «Forte più della morte è l’amore».

Il profumo pieno di Dio è Gesù, il figlio dell’uomo. In lui Dio odora di uomo perché l’uomo odori di Dio. È Lui la «nostra» altra parte, il «non altro da ogni altro» che a tutti dà la loro e la sua propria identità. «Carne della mia carne e ossa delle mie ossa», grida alla sposa Adamo, da lei e per lei risvegliato da morte. Amare è comunicare all’amato ciò che si ha e si è. L’amore fa dei due una sola carne, un solo odore.

Paolo chiama i cristiani «buon odore di Cristo», che si diffonde nel mondo intero. Hanno il suo odore, la sua identità. Per questo in loro ogni figlio d’uomo percepisce la propria maestà divina. È il prodigio di san Francesco che parla con Saladino e frate lupo, con frate sole e frate vento. È la genuinità del vescovo di Roma che ciascuno fiuta come suo simile. Solo perché è «umano», pastore che odora delle sue pecore. Nessuna esclusa. Anzi, si fa più vicino alla più lontana.

Anche negli Atti degli Apostoli l’angelo indica al pagano Cornelio una pista «odorifera» per cercare Pietro e convertirlo a essere «un uomo» come lui. Si trova a Giaffa, in riva al mare, ospite di Simone il conciatore. Suo «palazzo apostolico» è una conceria. Odorabile a distanza da tutti, è per Dio più adorabile di ogni incenso. Da lì partirà la rivelazione al mondo di Colui che si è fatto carne in Israele per farsi carne in ogni uomo. Solo così Dio è se stesso: «uno» e «tutto in tutti».

«Odorare di pecora» è il motto del pastore di Roma. Il suo odore è lo stesso delle pecore. Sta con loro giorno e notte. Infatti il «pastore bello» è lo stesso Agnello, che, con fatica mortale, porta tutti ai pascoli della vita.

L’uomo è figlio di Dio, sua immagine e somiglianza, non perché buono, bello e pio, ma semplicemente in quanto figlio dell’uomo. Questa espressione, massimo comun divisore di ogni uomo, è l’unica che Gesù applica a sé. Essa include per primo chi escludiamo come cattivo, brutto ed empio come Lui , «quasi verme e non uomo». Prima della croce solo i diavoli e Pietro dicono che Gesù è figlio di Dio. Ma lui li tacita.

È la croce di Gesù – distanza che lui ha posto tra sé e le nostre idee su Dio – che lo rivela Dio. Con buona pace di tutti, bisogna dire non: «Gesù è Dio», bensì: «Dio è Gesù». Il soggetto infatti è l’incognito di cui è noto il predicato. Ma Dio nessun teologo l’ha mai visto: è il «soggetto» del quale tutto parla, ma solo per analogia. Il suo «predicato» proprio e totale è Gesù. Il suo corpo, protagonista dei Vangeli, ci rivela Dio. La sua carne, in ciò che fa e dice, lo manifesta come il Verbo, l’Unigenito che ci fa l’esegesi di quel Dio che nessuno mai ha visto. In lui abita corporalmente tutta la pienezza della divinità. Il suo corpo mostra ciò che mai entrò in occhio o cuore d’uomo. È svelamento di Dio, salvezza sua e nostra. Per questo Paolo, spiazzando tutti, dice: «Io non ritenni di saper altro in mezzo a voi se non Gesù, e questi crocifisso».

Chi dice «Gesù è Dio» ignora o strapazza i Vangeli, è doceta, giussanita o neoambrosiano. Attribuisce al Crocifisso quanto ogni religione dice di dio: è l’onnipotente che tutto possiede e tutti giudica, condanna e giustizia. La croce di Gesù sdemonizza tale immagine divina, ben utilizzata da religiosi e negata da atei. Perversione satanica invertire soggetto e predicato! Povero Dio, svuotato dalla conoscenza di Gesù e imbottito da nostri deliri di potere.

Dal Calvario i discepoli fuggono. Non vogliono questo Dio. Restano le donne che amano. Nei primi tre Vangeli i «teologi» che lo riconoscono sono il malfattore convinto di essere tale e il centurione pagano che lo uccide. Giovanni a sua volta conclude con il colpo di lancia al cuore, da cui sgorga sangue e acqua. E ci consegna il vertice di ogni profezia: «Volgeranno lo sguardo a colui che hanno trafitto». Nasciamo dalla ferita d’amore di Dio. Guardando lì, scopriamo chi siamo noi per lui e lui per noi. Evviva i cristiani che si sanno malfattori e/o uccisori di un Dio blasfemo.

Gesù dirà alle sue pecore: «Venite, benedetti dal Padre mio». Ero affamato, assetato, immigrato, nudo, malato e carcerato: voi mi avete sfamato, dissetato, ospitato, vestito, visitato e accolto. I giusti dicono di non averlo mai visto così malconcio. Ignorano che ciò che si fa all’ultimo è fatto a lui. 

Ai caproni, coltissimi, piissimi e ricchi di belle liturgie, Gesù dirà: «Lontani da me maledetti». Vi siete allontanati da me, rifiutando i miei fratelli più poveri. Ogni ultimo degli uomini è figlio dell’uomo, Dio stesso che si rivela e mi salva. Siamo noi a giudicare e condannare Dio, non lui noi. Quelli che escludiamo sono l’Agnello di Dio che porta su di sé il nostro male. Per questo una Chiesa, cominciando dal pastore, deve profumare di pecora e non di caprone.

Perché i buoni sono chiamati pecore e i cattivi capri? Guidata dall’istinto, la capra sa trovare cibo. La pecora invece no: si mette al seguito suo o di un pastore. Molti uomini hanno come modello il caprone, al cui istinto basta sesso e pascolo, alias danaro. Soddisfatto il piacere, compiuto il dovere!

«Che male c’è?», dice qualcuno. Purtroppo ignora che l’uomo non è solo istinto: è desiderio di felicità, frutto maturo di amore corrisposto. Bulimia di roba, sesso e potere è sintomo di infelicità. Chi non si sa amato e si sente nessuno, è posseduto dall’istinto di mangiare tutto e tutti. E non basta mai! Non ama né sé né altri. È da curare, come gran parte dei politici e dei potenti. Felicità non è avere, potere e apparire. Questa è via regia di menzogna e ingiustizia, che tutto infetta di morte. Pensiamo al secolo passato. Ciò che sta accadendo ora è peggio. Solo che ogni male è, come sempre, spostato in corpore vili. Siamo diventati tutti «scarti del sistema», asserviti alla stupidità della Borsa. Essa, sola signora di se stessa, è sovrana su tutto. E distrugge quanto tocca per innalzare sempre più il suo trono di fuoco e fumo. Ma siamo così imbecilli da volere questo stile di vita?

Gesù si propone come il «pastore bello» proprio nel recinto del tempio (Gv 10). Nel recinto le pecore sono munte, tosate o, come in questo caso, vendute al sacro macello. Gesù vuol condurre gli uomini fuori da tutte le recinzioni, per portarli alla libertà dei figli di Dio. E Dio è bellezza di amore a servizio di ogni uomo, suo figlio a sua immagine e somiglianza. Ognuno, lo sappia o no, per Dio vale più di lui: dà la sua vita per lui!

Quando verrà il Messia? Quando lo riconosciamo in ogni figlio d’uomo, nostro fratello. Allora noi saremo ciò che siamo e Dio sarà tutto in tutti. Gesù è «pastore bello» perché Agnello che espone, dispone e depone la sua vita per tutti. Proprio così è Signore della vita e vince la morte.

Chi non odora di pecora, non è pastore: è ladro e brigante che ruba e uccide. Perché noi scegliamo come capi i più caproni? Il primo re fu Caino che uccise il fratello, imitato da tutti i suoi successori. non solo da Romolo. Leggi la favola di Esopo, identica a Giudici 9,8-15 e simile a 1Sam 8,1ss. Tale modello è la proposta del serpente che ci fece perdere l’albero della vita. Abile incantatore, fa apparire buono, bello e desiderabile ciò che risulta cattivo, brutto e detestabile (Gn 3,1ss). Ora il serpente è messo in pensione, rappresentato meglio da mamma Tv e leggi di mercato con i loro padroni, seguiti da turivociferanti accoliti politici e religiosi.

Preghiamo che l’odore di pecora contamini tutti e ci faccia come l’Agnello. Allora ci saranno cieli nuovi e terra nuova.

Silvano Fausti SJ, 1940-2015



„One can dream”

Author David Grossman, whose son Uri was killed in the 2006 Lebanon War and who on Thursday will be awarded the 2018 Israel Prize for Literature, addressed bereaved Israelis and Palestinians at an alternative Memorial Day event on April 17, 2018. 


„Dear friends, good evening.

There is a lot of noise and commotion around our ceremony, but we do not forget that above all, this is a ceremony of remembrance and communion. The noise, even if it is present, is beyond us now, because at the heart of this evening there is a deep silence — the silence of the void created by loss.

My family and I lost Uri in the war, a young, sweet, smart and funny man. Almost twelve years later it is still hard for me to talk about him publicly.

The death of a loved one is actually also the death of a private, whole, personal and unique culture, with its own special language and its own secret, and it will never be again, nor will there be another like it.

It is indescribably painful to face that decisive ‘no’. There are moments when it almost sucks into it all the ‘have’ and all the ‘yes’. It is difficult and exhausting to constantly fight against the gravity of loss.

It is difficult to separate the memory from the pain. It hurts to remember, but it is even more frightening to forget. And how easy it is, in this situation, to give in to hate, rage, and the will to avenge.

But I find that every time I am tempted by rage and hate, I immediately feel that I am losing the living contact with my son. Something there is sealed. And I came to my decision, I made my choice. And I think that those who are here this evening — made that same choice.

And I know that within the pain there is also breath, creation, doing good. That grief does not isolate but also connects and strengthens. Here, even old enemies — Israelis and Palestinians — can connect with each other out of grief, and even because of it.

I have met quite a few bereaved families over these past years. I told them, in my experience, that even when you are at the heart of the pain you should remember that every member of the family is allowed to grieve the way they want, the way they are, and the way their soul tells them to.

No one can instruct another person how to grieve. It’s true for a private family, and it’s true for the larger ‘bereaved family’.

There is a strong feeling that connects us, a feeling of a joint fate, and the pain that only we know, for which there are almost no words out there, in the light. That is why, if the definition of a ‘bereaved family’ is genuine and honest, please respect our way. It deserves respect. It is not an easy path, it is not obvious, and it is not without its internal contradictions. But it is our way to give meaning to the death of our loved ones, and to our lives after their death. And it is our way to act, to do — not to despair and not to desist — so that one day, in the future, the war will fade, and maybe cease completely, and we will start living, living a full life, and not just subsisting from war to war, from disaster to disaster.” …………..

„One can dream. One can also admire achievements. Israel is worth fighting for. I also wish these things for our Palestinian friends: a life of independence, freedom and peace, and building a new, reformed nation. And I wish that in 70 years’ time our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, both Palestinian and Israeli, will stand here and each will sing their version of their national anthem.

But there is one line that they will be able to sing together, in Hebrew and Arabic: “To be a free nation in our land”, and then maybe, at last, it will be a realistic and accurate description, for both nations.”


„And no birds sing”

Rachel Carson about her „Silent Spring”: This is a book about man’s war against nature, and because man is part of nature it is also inevitably a book about man’s war against himself.

At that point, Carson was considering The War Against Nature and At War with Nature as possible titles, but settled on Silent Spring in September — a title inspired by Keats, Carson’s favorite poet: “The sedge is withered from the lake, / And no birds sing.”

Four months later, in January of 1962, she reports to Freeman the completion of her Herculean feat:

I achieved the goal of sending the 15 chapters to Marie [Rodell, Carson’s literary agent] — like reaching the last station before the summit of Everest.

Rodell had sent a copy of the manuscript to longtime New Yorker editor William Shawn, who gave Carson the greatest and most gratifying surprise of her life. Struggling to override her typical self-effacing humility, she relays the episode to Freeman:

Last night about 9 o’clock the phone rang and a mild voice said, “This is William Shawn.” If I talk to you tonight you will know what he said and I’m sure you can understand what it meant to me. Shamelessly, I’ll repeat some of his words — “a brilliant achievement” — “you have made it literature” “full of beauty and loveliness and depth of feeling.” … I suddenly feel full of what Lois once called “a happy turbulence.”

In an exquisite letter to Freeman penned later that day — a letter that is itself a literary masterpiece — Carson echoes Zadie Smith’s assertion that the best reason for writing books is “to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.” She writes:

After Roger was asleep I took Jeffie [Carson’s cat] into the study and played the Beethoven violin concerto — one of my favorites, you know. And suddenly the tensions of four years were broken and I got down and put my arms around Jeffie and let the tears come. With his little warm, rough tongue he told me that he understood. I think I let you see last summer what my deeper feelings are about this when I said I could never again listen happily to a thrush song if I had not done all I could. And last night the thoughts of all the birds and other creatures and the loveliness that is in nature came to me with such a surge of deep happiness, that now I had done what I could — I had been able to complete it — now it had its own life!

Photograph by Bill Reaves from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Documerica project (U.S. National Archives)

Silent Spring was published on September 27, 1962 and adrenalized a new public awareness of the fragile interconnectedness of this living world. Several months later, CBS host Eric Sevareid captured its impact most succinctly in lauding Carson as “a voice of warning and a fire under the government.” In the book, she struck a mighty match:

When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence … it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half truth.

How tragic to observe that in the half-century since, our so-called leaders have devolved from half-truths to “alternative facts” — that is, to whole untruths that fail the ultimate criterion for truth: a correspondence with reality.

Carson, who was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, never lived to see the sea change of policy and public awareness that her book precipitated. Today, as a new crop of political and corporate interests threatens her hard-won legacy of environmental consciousness, I think of that piercing Adrienne Rich line channeling the great 16th-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, another scientist who fundamentally revolutionized our understanding of the universe and our place in it: “Let me not seem to have lived in vain.”

Let’s not let Rachel Carson seem to have lived in vain.

Maria Popova

From https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/01/27/rachel-carson-silent-spring-dorothy-freeman/?utm_source=Brain+Pickings&utm_campaign=