Amor Mundi 6/16/1306-17-2013
Hannah Arendt considered calling her magnum opus Amor Mundi; Love of the World. Instead, she settled upon The Human Condition. What is most difficult, Arendt writes, is to love the world as it is, with all the evil and suffering in it. And yet she came to do just that. Loving the world means neither uncritical acceptance nor contemptuous rejection. Above all it means the unwavering facing up to and comprehension of that which is.
Every Sunday, The Hannah Arendt Center Amor Mundi Weekly Newsletter will offer our favorite essays and blog posts from around the web. These essays will help you comprehend the world. And learn to love it.
Cairo-based journalist Ursula Lindsey interviews Zahi Hawass, Egypt's former chief of antiquities and something of an international celebrity. In turns egocentric and altruistic, the conversation offers a rich take on archaeology, politics, and personal responsibility under dictatorship. It calls particular attention to the question of unwavering professional duty that serves a morally unsound polity: "All my life, I was an archaeologist. I've never been a politician. When the revolution came, I was the only Egyptian official who went to the Cairo museum on January 28 and 29, the only Egyptian official who was in Tahrir Square ... I have never been a politician. The only thing that I did with Mubarak was to make the children's museum. Ursula, if you go to this museum you will see that it is the best thing in Egypt. It is unique, it is not to be repeated. But because of that this lady from the New York Times says that Zahi Hawass is from the old regime. How?! I'm from Egypt! I'm for Egypt! I was always wearing my jeans and my hat and protect the Egyptian antiquities."
John Jeremiah Sullivan reads James Agee's Cotton Tenants, the never before published magazine story on tenant farmers in "west-central Alabama" that would eventually become Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Sullivan suggests that the earlier essay, which was meant for Fortune, is less interesting, less mystical, but perhaps more whole; he zooms out to see what he can learn about prose writing in general from this difference: "Prose is like glass in this respect. The bigger you go, the more opportunities for cracks. We cut more ambitious works slack not out of pity but in just measurement. There are places, like pressures, to which you can't go without a little weakening of the structure."
The Paris Review excerpts Italian cartoonist Ivan Brunetti's new book:Aesthetics: A Memoir. In it, Brunetti describes some of the inspiration for his work "I collect toys, doo-dads, bric-a-brac, and other nonsense, and these sad, cute (but bordering on grotesque), often anonymous items inform much of my own cartooning. How can there be life behind those dead eyes? I suppose that's what every cartoonist is trying to create: something alive out of something inert."
Last month, ten Little Free Libraries representing ten collaborations between an architect or a firm with a community organization went up in New York City. At ArchLeague, there are descriptions and designs for all of them, each, as one designer puts it, offering a "potential for respite and a moment's escape from the city."
Ian Crouch wonders, following all of the talk of Orwell's novel after last week's revelation of the NSA's massive metadata collection apparatus, whether or not we're living in 1984. Although, he concludes, the comparison makes sense, "some novels have both the good and bad fortune of being given over to wider history, inspiring idiomatic phrases that instantly communicate a commonly understood idea." Crouch ultimately comes to reject the comparison. Yes we are being surveilled-and it would have been naive to think otherwise even before last week's leak. But that surveillance is not, yet, a tool of control.
Roger Berkowitz considers transhumanism. Steven Tatum, using Arendt as a starting point, makes the case for summer vacation as a time for students to participate in the agricultural process that feeds them. Your weekend read sheds light on the question of what, if anything, we mean when we speak of an "ordinary Nazi."