A striking picture, isn’t it? Dead wood – a finger pointing at the sky? Two arms raised above the head – in desperation? A skeleton? I got all kind of crazy ideas when I saw this dead tree during a walk not too far from home. It was about the time I spent a lot of time listening to works from the Swiss-American composer Ernest Bloch (1880-1959), and when I listened to his Sonata for Piano and Cello, written in 1897, I knew right away which picture to pick as an illustration for this post. As for the reasons, I don’t quite know myself. It was just like: It has to be this picture or no one!
Today is the first day of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. Jews all over the world celebrate the rededication of the second temple in Jerusalem. I want to honour on this day a Jewish composer. I want to honour Jewish scientists and artists and their intellectual output by which they enriched European culture. Among those who brought the light to Europe were the philosophers Baruch de Spinoza and Moses Mendelssohn. The poet Heinrich Heine. The physicist Albert Einstein and the political scientists Hannah Arendt and Eric Voegelin. All five pondered in one way or another the fate of mankind and the experience of God and came to different conclusions. All five deeply cared about humanity, its progress, its well-being and searched for the purpose of life.