Last week I read an article by David Brooks in ‘The Opinion Pages’ of the New York Times. If you click on the link I’ve embedded (above) in Mr. Brooks’ name, you’ll have the pleasure of reading it yourself. I wish you would; not because I spent time attaching it to this post, but for the joy it will bring you and the background for a discovery it will give you. The article is titled, “Love Story”, and it truly is one. You might expect something different from Mr. Brooks, but then you’ll be surprised.
The piece is about a chance encounter in Leningrad at the end of WWII between 20th-century British philosopher Isaiah Berlin, and pre-revolutionary poet Anna Akhmatova. The serendipitous meeting created a one night love affair of like minds and souls in perfect communication. I’ll leave you to your own interpretation of the fourteen hours they spent together, another enticement, I hope, to read the article and then to move on to first-hand accounts from Akhmatova and Berlin, just as David Brooks was inspired to do by Berlin’s biography written by Michael Ignatieff. But these exciting people and their ideas are not actually the point of this post, but more the catalyst.
At the end of David Brooks’ piece, there’s a swift, jarring shift from the discussion of the cultures that brought these two amazing people together, to a comment about our educational system. I say jarring because there was no preparation for it in the rest of the essay. That’s perfectly acceptable when essay is the form a discussion takes, but it certainly made me focus in a protracted way on the words and their intent, as I assumed that was why Mr. Brooks fired it across the bow of his ‘Love Story’. The surprising sentence is: “I’m not sure how many schools prepare students for this kind of love.”