Koestler Extraordinaire

I have been reading the wonderful biography of Arthur Koestler by Michael Scammell, Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey Of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic (NY: random House, 2009). See the NYTimes Book Review here. Many years ago I remember reading Janus in one sitting, into the wee hours, and feeling a profound sense of mystical wonder as I finished. I wrote in the inside cover–rather naively I suppose–“This might prove to be the most influential book I have yet encountered.” I have posted previously on various bits and pieces of Koestler or Koestler related thoughts and meditations, here are a few links: Parts & Whole, Visiting the Messiah, On the Convert.

Here is a lovely quotation on Koestler’s restless quest for meaning:

If we can speak about the Central European intellectual at all it is because of the personality of Arthur Koestler. His Jewish-Hugaro-Czech origins are a sort of advance warning that explains all his researches and his ambiguity: from }udaism to the theory of assimilation, from Marxism to the absolute negation of communism, from the flirtation with eastern spiritualism to its demystification, from faith in science to doubt of all closed systems, and from the search for the absolute to serene resignation in the face of man’s critical aptitudes.

Danilo Kiš

 

Taking Mother Mary Home at Last…

You know, you really got the short end of the stick. You know that right? You had to be a mom and you didn’t even get to have sex. I mean, what do I know? It’s not like I’m reading your diaries. It’s not like you wrote any diaries. Do you really want to be up here. I can get you out. You want to go home?

Bridget in Showtime’s SMILF, addressing the statue of Mary in her nearby Catholic Church. She then steals the image and takes it to her apartment, thus liberating Mary and allowing her to roam the streets of humanity again rather than remain on her immovable pedestal. Season 2, episode 2 “Sorry Mary I’m Losing Faith”

I hope I can prove worthy to take Mary Home…at last…I can open that door, we can walk again on those ancient paths of old Jerusalem and Mt Zion…

The Lost Mary: How the Jewish Mother of Jesus Because the Virgin Mother of God (New York: Knopf, forthcoming late 2020)

Remembering Jonathan Z. Smith

Quintessential JZ Smith…if you never had the pleasure of hearing him…his Plenary Address to the American Academy of Religion in 2010.

You can read an informal fascinating interview with Mr. Smith (as Chicago professors are called–no titles please!) published in The Chicago Maroon in 2008 here. Don’t miss this one!

Mr. Smith’s published books are available on Amazon, with an author’s page here. Each is a collection of essays gathered around a theme or stage in his unfolding thinking about “Religion” over four decades.

A collection of essays on Smith’s work and contributions to the field: Introducing Religion: Essays in Honor of Jonathan Z. Smith, edited by by Willi Braun and Russell T. McCutcheon.

 

Jonathan Z. Smith has Died

Well Socrates…but How shall we bury you? However you please, he replied, if you can catch me and I do not get away from you. And he laughed gently.”

A sad day for so many of us who loved Jonathan Z. Smith as a teacher and friend. There was no one to match him and likely won’t ever be again. For all of us a light has gone out. Not a lot to say other than what Elaine, his wife, has released to the newspapers. I will let this suffice for now, and JZ Smith, true to his spirit, wanted no memorial or service. For those who knew and loved him this photo captures it all.

SMITH–Jonathan Z., passed away on December 30, 2017. He was the Robert O. Anderson Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the Humanities at the University of Chicago. Professor Smith received his PhD from Yale, in Religious Studies, in 1969. In 2013, Smith was awarded an Honorary Lifetime Membership in the International Association for the History of Religions. “Smith’s enormous contributions to the field from the 1960s to the present,” the citation read, “have unwaveringly insisted upon, and been exemplary of, methodological rigor and self consciousness. He has probably done more than any single scholar to promote an analytic or critical approach to the study of religion.”

He is the author of numerous works, including Map Is Not Territory, Imagining Religion, and To Take Place. He was also the editor of The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion. Smith joined the faculty of the University of Chicago in 1968 and remained there his entire career. From 1973 to 1982 he assumed administrative responsibilities and served as associate dean and then dean of the college.

He is survived by his loving wife, Elaine B. Smith, his daughter, Siobhan Smith, son Jason Smith, Rachel Weaver, his granddaughter, Hazel van Wijk, and sister, Pam Hanson.

What Computers Can’t Do and Will Never Do: The Passing of Hubert Dreyfus

I find myself thinking about the loss of Hubert Dreyfus quite often these days. I realize many of my readers have likely never heard of the extraordinary philosophical contributions of Professor Dreyfus–or “Bert,” as those who knew him called him. The NY Times tribute obituary: “Hubert L. Dreyfus, Philosopher of the Limits of Computers, Dies at 87” is a good place to start.

What I missed was the sweetly ironic Tweet on April 22nd, the day of his death, presumably posted by his wife Genevieve–or his ghost–but clearly orchestrated by him as he was dying with a smile:

There are a number of other thoughtful obituaries and tributes, including the NYTimes obituary linked above and this piece in Prospect, but I think that this one from the Berkeley News, where Dreyfus taught for 50 years, might capture the spirit of the man the best:

Hubert Dreyfus, preeminent philosopher and AI critic, dies at 87 _ Berkeley News

 

Robert Kuhn did some wonderful interviews with Dreyfus on his PBS series “Closer to Truth” that I use in my classes and highly recommend, see the profile and links here. Kuhn texted me that “Closer to Truth” plans a special tribute to Dreyfus and I will post the link when it is up.

Continue reading “What Computers Can’t Do and Will Never Do: The Passing of Hubert Dreyfus”

When the Deal Goes Down

When The Deal Goes Down

WRITTEN BY: BOB DYLAN
In the still of the night, in the world’s ancient light
Where wisdom grows up in strife
My bewildering brain, toils in vain
Through the darkness on the pathways of life
Each invisible prayer is like a cloud in the air
Tomorrow keeps turning around
We live and we die, we know not why
But I’ll be with you when the deal goes downWe eat and we drink, we feel and we think
Far down the street we stray
I laugh and I cry and I’m haunted by
Things I never meant nor wished to say
The midnight rain follows the train
We all wear the same thorny crown
Soul to soul, our shadows roll
And I’ll be with you when the deal goes down

The moon gives light and shines by night
I scarcely feel the glow
We learn to live and then we forgive
O’er the road we’re bound to go
More frailer than the flowers, these precious hours
That keep us so tightly bound
You come to my eyes like a vision from the skies
And I’ll be with you when the deal goes down

I picked up a rose and it poked through my clothes
I followed the winding stream
I heard a deafening noise, I felt transient joys
I know they’re not what they seem
In this earthly domain, full of disappointment and pain
You’ll never see me frown
I owe my heart to you, and that’s sayin’ it true
And I’ll be with you when the deal goes down

Copyright © 2006 by Special Rider Music

https://bobdylan.com/songs/when-deal-goes-down/