Sunday, May 20, 2018

Abraham Joshua Heschel, Prophetic Voice of Kindness

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 “There is immense silent agony in the world, and the task of man is to be a voice for the plundered poor, to prevent the desecration of the soul and the violation of our dream of honesty. The more deeply immersed I became in the thinking of the prophets, the more powerfully it became clear to me what the lives of the Prophets sought to convey: that morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
“The Reasons for My Involvement in the Peace Movement” (1972)

Abraham Joshua Heschel [born in 1907 in Warsaw, Poland–died in 1972 in New York City, New York] is known for his stand against the Vietnam War, for his support of Black Civil Rights—including taking part in the Selma–Montgomery March in 1965—for his scholarship, and for finding the middle ground between the legalism of Orthodox and the leniency of Reform Judaism. Rabbi Heschel was, by all accounts, a most humane thinker and individual, who left a legacy of goodness, thoughtfullness and kindness, illuminated in his teachings, actions and writings, notably in such influential works as Man is Not Alone (1951), The Sabbath (1951), God in Search of Man (1955), and The Prophets (1962). Robert D. McFadden writes for The New York Times (in 1972) about the many parts that made up Rabbi Heschel: “Standing before a class, he was by turns a scholar who could elucidate fine points of the Talmud, a philosopher who could compare the metaphysics of Hegel and Kant and a Hasid, who could evoke the mystery of God's concern for man in tales and parables.” In Who is Man, Rabbi Heschel writes about the search for meaning, never easy but always necessary for thinking man: “The sense of meaning is not born in ease and sloth. It comes after bitter trials, disappointments in the glitters, foundering, strandings. It is the marrow from the bone. There is no manna in our wilderness.” True enough.
For more go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Commonweal

The Eternal Light: Abraham Joshua Heschel (1972)

Kindness

This is Post No. 2,500.


Abraham Joshua Heschel interviewed by Carl Stern (on December 10, 1972) for “The Eternal Light” (1944–1989) show on NBC-TV.  The interview took place a couple of weeks before Rabbi Heschel’s death (from a heart attack on December 23, 1972); he was 65. The interview was shown on February 4, 1973.
     In a wide-ranging discussion, Rabbi Heschel talks about free will, wonder, discipline, meaning, prayer, the prophets, messianic redemption, God, loneliness, and the “celebration of life.” All serious talk. “Without holiness, we will sink into absurdity. …God is not limited to one nation, one people,” Rabbi Heschel says in this interview. “God is the Father of all men.” It might seem like a paradox, but Rabbi Heschel was both very Jewish and very universal, an understanding that came about by the study of the Prophets and by the life he led. When I watch this interview, I am led to the conviction that Rabbi Heschel is a sincere intelligent humane man. Here is what he said near the end of the interview, which validates this statement: “When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.”
    The Eternal Light, conceived by the Jewish Theological Seminary, began on radio in 1944, with radio dramas and continued on TV with interviews such as this one in 1952. It was broadcast by NBC as part of its Sunday morning religious programming until 1989. For more on The Eternal Light, go [here] and [here] and [here].
Via: Youtube

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Jean Améry, A Tortured Body, A Tortured Mind

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Jean Améry [born as Hans Maier in 1912 in Vienna, Austria–died in 1978 in Salzburg, Austria]. Amery’s most famous book of collected essays, which he began writing in 1964, in German, is Jenseits von Schuld und Sühne: Bewältigungsversuche eines Überwältigten; Trans: Sidney Rosenfeld and Stella P Rosenfeld), or in English, At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities, published in 1966 and re-issued ten years later. The title describes so much, including whhat happens when someone has been tortured, as Améry was by the Gestapo. A person who has been tortured forever remains tortured, notably a person of the mind who relies on abstractions and imagination. When the blows of harsh reality strike, immediately his trust in humanity is not only diminished, it is forever gone. Amery writes in “Die Tortur,” one of the essays in the book noted above: “At the first blow…trust in the world breaks down. This other person, opposite whom I exist physically in the world and with whom I can exist only as long as he does not touch my skin surface as border, forces his own corporeality on me with the first blow. He is on me and thereby destroys me. It is like a rape, a sexual act without consent […].” Torture always defeats trust. It might be that one man ruling over another is not humane; torture is its full and complete antithesis, the negation of man. For that reason alone, there is no moral reason that torture should ever be used. Améry killed himself on October 17, 1978; he was 65. Whether his was an act of defiance or of despair, one can never know with certainty; it was, however, an act of a man who had reached his limit. I have not read this book, only excerpts, but it is on my list of books to order. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].

Patti Smith: Because The Night (1978)


Patti Smith: “Because The Night” (1978) on “The Old Grey Whistle Test” (OGWT), a British TV show dedicated to serious rock music, which aired on BBC2 from 1971 to 1988. The song was written by Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith. Springsteen’s version can be heard [here] in a 1978 performance in Houston, Texas. Fast forward 40 years later. You can watch a version with Smith and Springsteen, at the Tribeca Film Festival at the Beacon Theatre in New York on April 23, 2018, [here]. Of course, this is a love song, and a personal one, Smith completing what Springsteen started to write. Allow me to wax poetic, with a philosophical bent, stretching the song further. The day might belong to business and politics, with all that it entails; the night to love and lovers, with all that this brings. All in ALL, this is just a wonderful rock song.
Via: Youtube

Friday, May 18, 2018

Viktor Ullmann, A Life Composed of Dissonance

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Viktor Ullman [born in 1888 in Teschen, now Cieszyn, Poland–died in Auschwitz in 1944] shown here in this undated photo, perhaps from the late 1920s, but undoubtedly in better times. In an excellent article for the Orel Foundation, Gwyneth Bravo writes: “Prior to his death in 1944, he wrote that ‘[artistic] form’ must be understood from the perspective of Goethe and Schiller as that which ‘overcomes matter or substance [and where] the secret of every work of art is the annihilation of matter through form—something that can possibly be seen as the overall mission of the human being, not only the aesthetic but ethical human being as well.’”
     His life was marked by dissonance, the last few years only more so, but what he did with this material, chiefly what resided in his brain and his heart, is remarkable. One site dedicated to Viktor Ullmann writes: “Viktor Ullmann was transported to Terezín on 8 September 1942. In the squalor of the ghetto he organised lectures, wrote critiques, performed as a pianist, and continued to compose. He created more than twenty works in captivity, including three piano sonatas, songs and choruses, the melodrama The Song of the Love and Death of Cornet Christoph Rilke based on the poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, and the opera The Emperor of Atlantis, which he did not have time to stage (it was first performed in altered form in 1975, in its original form in 1992). On 16 October 1944 he found himself bound for Auschwitz in a transport which included the conductors Rafael Schächter and Karel Ančerl, the actor Gustav Schorch, composers Pavel Haas, Hans Krása, Gideon Klein, the poet and painter Petr Kien (the librettist of Ullmann’s The Emperor of Atlantis), and many other artists. On 17 or 18 October 1944 Viktor Ullmann was murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.”      For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Courtesy: Orel Foundation