Literature

The Cheese Man

Leon Wieseltier

by Leon Wieseltier

‘A person must have a worldview’, my teacher remarked.

I was a very young man when those words were said to me. They sent a shudder through me; I knew at once that a momentous idea had been imparted to me. This, despite the fact that I was already in possession of a worldview, or, more precisely, that I had been born into a worldview in which I was being systematically schooled. But the notion that a worldview was an obligation was new to me. Though it was not intended to do so, my teacher’s remark broke open the settledness of things, the closed system into which my mind was growing. If one must have a worldview, then which worldview? Suddenly belief seemed less like an inheritance – an affirmation of a fortunate accident of genealogy – and more like a task. There was the suggestion of a choice. And this in turn introduced me, right then and there, to the vertigo from which modern Western thought has never recovered: to the recognition, by turns intoxicating and vexing, that there are many worldviews, and that all of them are held to be true by the people and the communities who espouse them. What did the reality of many truths say about the possibility of truth? My head, which was covered by a woolen yarmulke, swam.

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