The Night Birds
July 13, 2011
A few weeks ago I noticed that the dead of night is no longer dead. It is alive with the songs of birds. The nocturnal concert comes from somewhere in the thickets of my garden, a small bucolic refuge in an unpastoral corner of the city. The performance is lyrical and cacophonous, a patterned program of warbles and screeches and trills and whistles, with an occasional phrase that pierces the heart—very Brooklyn Academy of Music. Robbed of sleep by the din, I thought of transliterating it, but old memories of Hopkins at his most ludicrous (“Teevo cheevo cheevio chee”) made me think again.
The Fear of Reason
June 23, 2011
“I just want to point out,” declared the student at the far end of the seminar table, “that when Maimonides offers a proof of God’s existence, he is not saying that he has really proved it. What he’s saying is: This works for me, and if it works for you, great.” I was teaching a graduate seminar on The Guide of the Perplexed at a fine American university, and I was pleased to see my students warming to my insistence that the old masterpiece is still alive, and one of the most formidable obstacles ever erected against a thoughtless existence.
What About Dara’a?
June 09, 2011
The reformer has responded to the democratic stirrings in his country with a war against its children. The murder and mutilation of Hamza Ali al-Khateeb is only the most shocking instance of Bashar al Assad’s mercilessness. The Syrian uprising originated in March as an expression of anger at the arrest and torture of fifteen boys, who were accused of scrawling anti-government graffiti in the town of Dara’a, which has now earned a place of honor in the geography of modern dissent. The crowd that demonstrated for the release of the boys was fired upon, lethally, by Syrian security forces.
That Nebo Feeling
May 19, 2011
Who lost Fayyad? This is the question that historians, and Israelis, and Palestinians, will ask about the most recent spiral into nothingness of the search for the necessary peace.
The Backseat American
May 05, 2011
Leon Wieseltier urges President Obama not to lead from behind.
'Osama bin Gotten'
May 02, 2011
Leon Wieseltier makes the case for jubilation at the death of Osama bin Laden.
Blossoms and Choppers
April 07, 2011
At the Tidal Basin the other day I was reminded that the most stimulating experiences are the unmediated ones. I was educated for mediation, for middle terms that unified logical or lived discrepancies and conquered them with a category. Contradictions were to be eliminated, like dissonances in music, or shown to be false, and in their resolution lay a release. But I have lost my confidence in single descriptions, and I am a little bored with the dream of release.
March 21, 2011
After only a few days of allied military action, the Libyan nightmare has been averted, and the rebels are now marching westward again. Like the invincible Serbian juggernaut of yore, the power of Muammar Qaddafi, which frightened Secretary Gates, has been shaken. President Obama has done an admirable thing. On March 18, he gave a speech explaining his decision. The speech was both ringing and baffling: as the poet said, I wish he would explain his explanation. What follows is a commentary on some of the president’s statements.
March 17, 2011
If spring comes, can winter be far behind? We are just concluding one of those rare hours when history could be viewed with something other than contempt. The revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia introduced a new movement of freedom, and demolished the cultural pessimism that confined such longings to people like us. The revolt in Libya, also animated by a democratic aspiration, exposed not only the depravity of a dictator but also the cravenness with which he was received in the wood-paneled precincts of some of the immensely important people of Washington, New York, and Cambridge.
March 11, 2011
Barack Obama’s policy toward the Libyan struggle for freedom is no longer a muddle. It is now a disgrace. Here is what his administration and its allies have told the world, and the Libyan dictator, and the Libyan rebels, in recent days.