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Jewish Journal

Cynicism and Middle East Peace

by Rabbi John Rosove

February 3, 2014 | 9:10 am

I have discovered a small little book written by William George Jordan in 1898 that I recommend. It is called “The Majesty of Calmness” (published anew by Empowered Wealth, 2004). It is an elegantly written 62-page essay in which Jordan (a late 19th century and early 20th century essayist and editor) opines on the meaning of failure and success, happiness and doing one’s best at all times regardless of age and circumstance.

I came across this little volume because it was favored by Coach John Wooden early on in his career and was a significant influence on him as he developed his educational philosophy and “Pyramid of Success.” Coach Wooden of the famed UCLA Bruins basketball team, has been called the greatest coach in any sport (college and professional) of the 20th century, but mostly he considered himself a teacher and a man of deep faith.

The following passage from “The Majesty of Calmness” is not only true for the individual, but is true in the world of international relations and diplomacy.

William George Jordan’s comments about the "cynic" and "cynicism" are particularly cogent and applicable to those within Israel and the Palestinian community who have been so hardened by fear, suffering and ideology that they cannot fathom an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and the normalization of relations between our two nations and peoples, despite the fact that contemporary history is filled with examples of reconciliation between former enemies (Germany, Japan and the West following WWII, etc.).

William George Jordan writes:

“A cynic is a man who is morally near-sighted, and brags about it. He sees evil in his own heart, and thinks he sees the world. He lets a mote in his eye eclipse the sun. An incurable cynic is an individual who should long for death, for life cannot bring him happiness, and death might. The keynote of Bismarck’s lack of happiness was his profound distrust of human nature." [Note: Bismarck famously said – “During my whole life I have not had twenty-four hours of happiness.”]

-William George Jordan, The Majesty of Calmness, (1898) published by Empowered Wealth, p. 57

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