A Good Day

January 31, 2008

Sitting in class today I felt the dizzying effects of academia.  Uncovering the rhetorical structures within which we think and write, postmodern historicism, determinism this and “othering” that – I began to collapse under the weight of my own thoughts.  Is there any worth to what I do?  Is there any such thing as a stable identity?  Don’t be fooled by the illustrious degree after my name (the Doctorate of Hebrew Literature is part of the Jewish gentleman’s pedigree) – there is much self-doubt just below the surface.  Is knowledge pursued within this or that department or using this or that method even worthwhile?  Am I a fool for letting this even bother me?

Then this evening I went to go see a new play by David Ives called “New Jerusalem”.  It is about the excommunication of Baruch “Benedict” de Spinoza by the Jewish community of Amsterdam in 1656.  Mr. Ives writes heady, witty plays that still manage to have charm and bring the emotions to bare.  Jeremy Strong played Spinoza as a dazzling, genuine young man whose love of God and the Truth were one and the same.  His performance was perfect.  This is a young actor to watch.  The archivist at the Salad is going to dig this little fragment up in a number of years in order that we can say: “You heard it here first.”

But perhaps most importantly I was convinced once again of the redemptive power of good theater.  Combining intellect, emotion, and instinct, all in the right proportion, was the antidote to a potentially depressing day.  Movies and books and all of the arts are about a lot of different things – I was surprised but happy to learn that sanity can be one of them.

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