Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I loooove the The New Yorker

Dudes: sometimes I am at a loss for words, believe it or not. So I leave you with this week's New Yorker charming Shouts & Murmurs piece by Zev Borow on the kind of evil people the government intends to wiretap for our collective safety. I usually don't find that section as amusing as they do at The New Yorker, but this time they nailed it.
By the way (words are coming back to me, it seems), I will never pretend to be hipper than thou by dumping on The New Yorker. Everything I know lately comes from the New Yorker. If you are ever at a loss for words at a social event, you can count on The New Yorker to provide the most fascinating conversation topics such as pit bulls, Hamas, Ariel Sharon, Beethoven's Grosse Fugue, Alan Turing, the man who broke the Enigma code, saved Britain, almost invented the computer and was convicted of gross indecency and given hormone treatments for being a homosexual, or if this is too depressing, you can talk about the increasingly unfunny winners of the cartoon contest, which stumps me every time. It's fascinating stuff to stuff your brain with.
Yesterday, for instance, I went to hear the admirable Dr. Oliver Sacks at a free talk with Larissa McFarquhar, sponsored by The New Yorker. Dr. Sacks is a remarkable human being. He's funny, self-effacing, eloquent and extramegasmart. He has an insatiable curiosity and awe for the way nature works, but most impressively, he has true empathy and hope in the face of darkness (something I find almost impossible to muster, being the misanthrope I am). Hearing him speak I thought he would have been a great Rabbi, in the best sense of the word, a great teacher and moral guide. A man whose life is about finding the transcendent in everything human, not through dogma and intransigence but through tolerance, joyful curiosity and investigation.
He spoke about synesthesia, aphasia, agnosia, tourette's, stereovision, and many other quirks of the brain. He's a serious scientist with the soul of a writer, therefore he is lucid and compelling and accesible. He said imagination is our most precious faculty. He spoke forcefully about the mishandling of religion being the most dangerous force in the world today (hear, hear!). He was aghast that 80% of Americans think the Bible is a geology book. He recently won a prize as Best Atheist (where do I sign?). I propose we give Oliver Sacks a prize for Best Human Being All Around.

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