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La La Land

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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A letter about essential things from Albert Einstein

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I like this Einstein fellow's intellectual attitude (see the final paragraph, below). While firmly disagreeing with someone's philosophical stance, he nevertheless insists that they may have much to say to each other "if we talked about concrete things." (Hey, what do I always say? Any valid exchange of ideas must be rooted in specific, mutually recognizable observations and solid reasoning, no matter what your opinions. Einstein said so, and he was no dummy!)

This letter, dated January 3, 1954, was written to Erik Gutkind, author of the book "Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt," which had been recommended to Einstein by a mutual friend, Luitzen Egbertus Jan Brouwer. (Full document at Letters of Note.)

Still, without Brouwer's suggestion I would never have gotten myself to engage intensively with your book because it is written in a language inaccessible to me. The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this....

For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong ... have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything "chosen" about them. [...]

Now that I have quite openly stated our differences in intellectual convictions it is still clear to me that we are quite close to each other in essential things, i.e. in our evaluation of human behavior ... I think that we would understand each other quite well if we talked about concrete things.

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