In December 2018, the Nexus Institute launched a new English-language book series: Cultura Animi. In this series we will publish one volume each year with a selection of contributions to the journal Nexus in English. Cultura Animi presents the most compelling and captivating essays in an elegant, slim, hardbound volume to make them available to an international audience.
Cultura Animi is part of our new supportership, for international culture enthusiasts who want to support the Institute’s activities.
A Letter to My Teacher, the first volume in the Cultura Animi series, includes letters by Bernard-Henri Lévy, Ágnes Heller, Fania Oz-Salzberger and others, writing to the teachers who taught them what matters most: self-confidence, a love of wisdom and the desire to think for themselves.
This issue is dedicated to all those teachers who still really do teach… who have not forgotten that ‘information’ and ‘data analysis’ have nothing to do with the search for knowledge and meaning. Teachers who still give their pupils space to go in search of truth, who trust them to do so and are aware that the true, good and beautiful still exist and can be found by those who seek them.
Of all my teachers, your role was one of the most crucial. You have had as much influence as Althusser, Levinas, Sartre and Foucault combined on the direction taken not only by my thought process but, almost more importantly, by my style. And, I repeat, I owe it to you that I have never, whatever the temptation to do otherwise, given up on my desire to seek the truth.
I kept my commitment and loyalty to your fundamental principle: information is nothing, thinking is everything… The un-understandable cannot be understood; but one can keep and keep thinking about it. I still hear your voice: ‘Girls, start thinking!’ Start thinking and continue thinking with your own mind and nothing else, questioning all the information in the schoolbooks.
You came from well below, and maybe that is why you were never interested in amassing money or wealth, except for your books, of course… ‘Do not let wealth impress you’, you said; some may be very rich but they are often most ignorant. That was your strength: cultivating knowledge.
Between us, Sir Isaiah, there is also that other love, beautiful and underestimated – the love of one intellect to another, the love of someone’s ideas, the atheists’ ‘agape’. You applied kindness to scholarly rigor, humanity to critical reading, the love of freedom to the analysis of fanaticism. Along with your myriad present-day pupils, whose number is growing with every digital download of your timely texts, I promise to keep this Menorah alight.
‘Man would know that he exists because he is thinking. Thinking!’ The muenster slices were piling up on the wax paper. ‘And not only would he know it. He would know it with perfect certainty. Certainty!’ The cheese man’s eyes were burning. For emphasis he would sometimes come out from behind the large refrigerated display case that separated him from his customers, and, rubbing his hands on his apron, give me the intellectual climax again. ‘Thinking!’ ‘Certainty!’