Check out what we've been up to this year...
Last year today, Sapienism celebrated its first anniversary, taking its first baby steps – and preparing the ground for the “terrible twos” to follow… Sapienism has yet to master the art of frequent, brief, posts (a plea to those of you out there willing to help out!), but still had a lot of fun probing some ideas about art, science, society, and politics. As always, Sapienism asked more questions than it managed to answer.
All humans imagine, but how radical can our imagination be, we asked in 2019’s first post – for example, can we see, at one and the same time, both the rabbit and the duck? A tall order, but perhaps taller still is to transcend such dichotomies to imagine new possibilities. Further, if possibilities requires imagination, the latter both allows for, and delimits, freedom, the capacity to choose. After all, once you see the duck you cannot unsee it. Or can you? Trying to unsee what we already did might be less about choosing one perspective over another, more about negating a certain perspective, so that we don’t have to choose.
Can you, for example, unsee the death of a person – specifically, a death you may have facilitated? Can you unsee how someone else carelessly caused it, and how he now shirks responsibility for it? A review of Kenneth Lonergan’s movie Margaret delves deep into these unsettling questions, depicting a drama of clashing ethics. Still on the silver screen, Sapienism visited Fritz Lang’s masterful 1927 silent film, Metropolis. Many accused it of being naïve, but this remarkable film saw far and deep – showing, ever so viscerally, that what makes the heart so vital is precisely the choice, and doubt, between darkness and light. Not least in politics.
Politics could be all about choice – but is it? For over a year now (since Dec 26, 2018), Israeli politics remain in limbo, with a series of provisional governments led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing serious criminal charges. How has this come to pass, and what can it tell us more broadly about contemporary politics? If Netanyahu is a magician, as his admirers claim, to fathom his appeal one must master the politics of dark magic, revealing how politicians today, Bibi included, have followed Orwell’s Big Brother in employing “doublethink” to control the masses. Also in the realm of BBism, another post examined Trump’s decision to desert the Kurds. Bringing fresh material from interviews with Syrian Kurds, the post counterintuitively suggests that Trump’s move may show, in the long run, that morality matters more than he, and we, tend to believe.
Some leaders show that bullying can be political. Bullies find strength in weakening others. The world, to them, is a zero-sum game, of winners and losers, of predators and prey: either hunt, or be hunted. What a bully does best is to tap straight into our fears and insecurities. But if so, the antidote might be not a feel-good culture, but facing our fears. And are there greater fears than losing your life, and your love? Sapienism’s last post of the year examines how two Greek heroes, Sisyphus and Orpheus, handled these fears – defeating death to win back life, and love, only to lose them again. And still, looking forward, we ask: Can we, somehow, imagine Sisyphus and Orpheus happy?
All these, and much more, can be found on Sapienism.com, and on its second birthday, I invite you all to take the next step, and post your own reflections – whether brief (2-3 paragraphs) or lengthy, be they about art, society or research – your thoughts, and feedback, are always welcome! Feel free to email me, and we’ll take it from there.
Please also spread the word, and invite others to join us – as we entwine the blog with HOPE, PrincetonX online course that completes its own first anniversary!
Have a wonderful 2020, full of life, love and hope!