Friday, March 22, 12-1
This week, we finished our discussion of “Dear Zealots,” the first of the essays in Amos Oz’s collection, Dear Zealots: Letters from a Divided Land. In particular, we talked about Oz’s explanations of what motivates fanatics: Fanatics want to change us so that we will be like them; they shed blood because they want to save the world. More than one of us found this explanation disingenuous. Zealots/Fanatics rallying cries of “Death to the Jews,” is hard to reconcile with the lofty ideal of saving the world. In the latter part of the essay, Oz turned his attention to curing fanaticism. He argued that fanatics lacked humor, curiosity, and imagination. We need to educate the imaginations of fanatics, to teach them “to imagine the world of the Other,” to ask “what if I were him or her [or them].” Perhaps this accounts for Oz’s going out of his way to understand the fanatic. We concluded our discussion of this essay by considering Oz’s plea that we practice “influence without melding.” We then began a discussion of Oz’s second essay in which he advocates that books and their multiple interpretations are at the heart of Jewish culture, and that the central premise of that culture could be summed up by the imperative to “Do no harm.” Oz traces his argument back to the fragment of an inscription on an ancient potsherd found at Khirbet Queiyafa, and our discussion ended with a look at various translations of this artifact, all of which called upon us to protect the weak and oppressed.
Next week we should conclude our discussion of Chapter 2: “Many Lights, Not One Light” (pp. 41-107). Please come prepared to share whatever knots you encounter in the text and we’ll see what we can do to untangle them.
Our informal discussion group meets every Friday from 12-1 in the CBI Library. All are welcome to join us, regardless of their level of expertise or attendance at previous noon study group discussions. Oz’s book is available at a variety of internet outlets.