Despite it's dark history, Wannsee is a pretty area one wouldn't quite expect in Berlin if accustomed to the avant-garde neighborhoods of, say, Kreuzberg and Prenzlaur Berg. It's very peaceful, though, with the lakes and the villas and the sailboats, and I was happy to be able to spend some time there last month.
"In England it's still legal to kill a
Welshman with a crossbow after 5."
-English friend, just FYI
"I feel like maybe my problem is
metaphysical. I seem to struggle
with punctuality on a mythic level."
-friend in NY
I'm busier in Belgium than I have been in quite awhile, in part, of course, because I'm working more than 40 hours a week, but also because routine things like laundry take so much time here. I spend one evening a week at the laundromat, three at the gym, and most Saturdays running errands because that's the only day shops are open. I don't know where I'm going to find the time to read and research for my law school requirements once language classes and the weekend trips begin. Despite the busy days and my strong dislike for Mons, I'm really enjoying NATO and my fellow Shapians. Last night I had beers with new friends from Serbia, Turkey, and the Czech Republic. We talked about Orhan Pamuk and religious liberty and the strength of Belgian beers. For some reason, I have fewer meaningful and forthright conversations in New York, and far, far fewer satisfying evenings. Despite the tumult of the last few weeks, I'm convinced that being here is worth it, and I'm so happy to have found some people with whom to share ideas and good times.
Winters seem never-ending in New York City. There's something about the way the air whips around the buildings and down the avenues, or rushes at you when you ascend from the subway, that makes winter here feel harsher and colder and longer than in other places. Or perhaps it's just that the city is grey and lifeless as people rush around with their heads down, bundled in dark coats and scarves, unwilling to interact, even to say hello. And though I have a fondness for the cold and snow and winter sports, as March nears its end, I look forward to spring and a long dinner in Brooklyn.
For the past two years, I have spent the last week of March pondering the question: what does it mean to be free? The obvious answer for liberal-tarian minded people like me, is that freedom means absence of interference from the state. But the question I really want an answer to is more specific, and more personal.
My eagerness to characterize personal freedom started in Crown Heights around my friend's Seder table. We go there to celebrate Pesach with her family, a Jewish holiday that commemorates the physical deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. We all read from the Haggadah and drink wine and eat bitter herbs. Her children ask questions about Pharaoh and sing songs about the seven plagues. We break the matza, hide the afikoman, and dip potato into salt water.
I like the ritual and the prayers, and I don't even mind that dinner starts at 8 in the evening and ends at 2 in the morning, and that for the majority of that time we are not actually eating. But the real reason I go to Brooklyn every Passover is because of something my friend said after dinner one year: "I'm so glad you came to celebrate with us because it's not just about Jews and freedom from slavery in Egypt. It's also a reminder to free ourselves from whatever holds us in bondage." Passover reminds me to be a better person and to keep on striving. Of course, that's easier said than done, but I like that the end of winter and the beginning of spring is tied to a long dinner in Brooklyn, and to a reckoning about what it means to be free.
"Room temperature? Yes, I'd like my wine room
temperature. . . just as long as we're talking
about the cellar room of my medieval castle."
-friend to waiter
In Politics, Aristotle says, “human beings are by nature political animals” (1253a1-18). This is certainly true, though sometimes it takes triggers to politicize people. These triggers are commonly the effects of defunct ideologies, bad policies, corrupt politicians, or ideological persuasion. . .Read More
In a previous essay, I argued for liberaltarianism, that is, some kind of alliance between libertarians and American liberals, the Democrats. Yesterday I read an article by a colleague, which explains in detail why he believes a third party will never capture the presidency in the American political system.Read More
Much has been written recently on the malaise (if not quite death) of feminism. In 2006 Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs bemoaned the desire of women to become sex objects in a perverse re-reading of female power. Germaine Greer went on Celebrity Big Brother, and, in the popularity stakes, Girls Gone Wild would have won any contest.Read More
This article entitled “Shepherding Romance” is written by one of my professors in New York. An émigré from the former communist Czechoslovakia and a Yale-trained scholar, it was her Political Philosophy class that first formally introduced me to the Ancient philosophers, and her later classes that introduced me to feminism.Read More