History Did Not End History Did Not End
Dreams and Visions, Fiction

History Did Not End

An Interview with Carlo Strenger
Tomasz Stawiszyński
time 20 minutes

Actually, I was convinced it wouldn’t happen.

I kept telling myself that Carlo Strenger had suddenly changed his mind. Or died. I know how that sounds, but, after all, he often writes in his books that the fundamental problem of modern culture is the denial of mortality. I’m about to board a plane to Tel Aviv and still no word from him. Before, he was answering my messages in a couple of minutes, or a couple of hours at most. Now there’s silence. It’s Thursday. On Monday, I e-mailed him asking for confirmation of our appointment. On Tuesday, I sent him another e-mail. Then another, plus a couple of text messages begging for a reply, because I already had the tickets, the hotel was booked, and so on. Now I’m at the airport and the worst case scenarios are going through my mind. Why this sudden communication breakdown?

I almost give up and go home – with all this silence, if I knocked on his door tomorrow I would feel almost like a stalker – when suddenly a pithy SMS shows up on my screen: “Interview is on. Looking forward.” What a relief. I board the plane and a couple of hours later I’m in Israel.

The next morning, I go to the house where we’re supposed to meet, but it turns out my information is incomplete. First of all, entrance B is nowhere to be seen. Second of all, a girl I ask for help in dealing with the Hebrew alphabet tells me that the name ‘Strenger’ doesn’t appear on any post box.

And he doesn’t answer the phone.

Well, that’s that, I think after a quarter of an hour. It won’t happen after all. I’m just about to go back to my hotel, when I notice an elderly lady watering flowers on a balcony. So I ask her, without much hope, whether she knows Professor Strenger.

She does, second entrance, top apartment.

I feel relieved again.

But then I’m at the door, I’m ringing the bell, and all I hear is a dog’s barking. He forgot. He won’t answer the door. Once again I lose all hope, and then the doors open. “You must be Tomasz,” Carlo Strenger invites me in, smiling broadly. “Meet Freud,” he adds, pointing to the dog, who barks, but is otherwise very friendly.

Freud will accompany us throughout our conversation, both the man (as a point of reference, for Strenger is, after all, a psychiatrist),


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Daniel C. Dennett. Photo by Phil Wickens

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An Interview with Daniel C. Dennett
Tomasz Stawiszyński

On this September day, the campus of Tufts University looks exactly like in those photos on the website gallery. Low brick buildings, lots of trees, sunshine lighting up small courtyards. Academic life seems to be going slowly; one could almost say lazily. Well-dressed, athletic young people wander around, talking, smiling. Some are sitting on benches and reading; others are holding hands or hugging in the midday glow. They are young and attractive, hungry for knowledge, full of dreams about a wonderful future.

Approaching the Center for Cognitive Studies, where I am to meet with Daniel C. Dennett – one of the greatest living philosophers – I cannot help but think that in somewhat similar surroundings lived a young prince by the name of Siddhartha, better known as the Shakyamuni Buddha. Everything around him was perfect. Wherever he looked, he saw young, healthy, beautiful people. That was because his protective father wanted to spare him any disturbing experiences, and banished everything that had to do with old age, illness and death. When Siddhartha finally discovered those things, he rejected his life and went on his way to find enlightenment. Does the Tufts campus also have some secrets?

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