My close friend and former colleague, Kerry Walters, just posted a version of the 'five books' question on Facebook: 'Besides religious scripture, which five books would you choose as central to the well-lived life?'
I chose, in no particular order:
1) Spinoza's Ethics
2) Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain
3) Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov
4) Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
5) Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra
If I could be permitted a runner-up (or two), I'd also list Søren Kierkegaard's Works of Love, and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's What is Philosophy?
What about you?
When President Trump last week 'declared', by presidential fiat, that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel, his intentions were pretty clear. Ratchet up the tension of an already volatile situation; provoke animosity and, by extension, violence; use that violence to support an agenda of xenophobia, Islamophobia, and racism. I would predict that before the day is out, we will be regaled with tweets about the Muslim ban, border security, and very likely, the necessity of Roy Moore, (the Alabama candidate who's as racist and depraved as the president himself).
This past semester, I taught my Intro to Philosophy course as a course on 'God, Death, and the Meaning of Life.' One of the texts we read was Simone de Beauvoir's A Very Easy Death, which chronicles her own experiences with the death of her mother. This text is profoundly moving, and I return to it on this day: 'When someone you love dies you pay for the sin of outliving her with a thousand piercing regrets. Her death brings to light her unique quality; she grows as vast as the world that her absence annihilates for her and whose whole existence was caused by her being there; you feel that she should have had more room in your life - all the room, if need be.'
It's been two years since I lost my mother. It was a Thursday evening, and I had just finished screening the film Match Point for my Dostoevsky seminar, when the text messages began to come in. My aunt texted me the following words: "Hey I am so sorry. You need anything let me know", and the dread overtook me. I knew that something very bad must have happened, not just because of the tenor of the message, but also because my aunt very rarely texts me at all. Then I heard my wife pacing outside the classroom, and it was ultimately my wife who told me that she had passed. Two years later, and it's still such a strange feeling. The sense of loss and of absence - that sense of a hole in one's identity - never really goes away (or at least it hasn't for me yet); you just get more accustomed to it.
‘…Je vous aime et vous souris d’où que je sois.’
‘… I love you and am smiling at you from wherever I am.’
As of today, it's official! Deleuze and Derrida: Difference and the Power of the Negative is going to production! Looking forward to seeing the finished project sometime in 2018!