The next month was easily the most challenging of Shmuel’ s life. He assumed that, like everything else he had done, what Jadwiga had to teach him would come easily. He had, after all, already been smuggling Jews around the Mediterranean and had even, with the help of that Assassin, bested a crew of pirates. How different could this be?

Quite a bit, it turned out. In the past, while he had done difficult things, and had suffered much, he had always done what he wanted to, or at least what he himself had decided to do Now, in service to a higher Good which had, to be sure, clearly chosen to serve, he was required to learn things that did not come naturally to him, and that he set aside his youthful spontaneity in favor of a rather strict discipline. In the mornings he would meet Jadwiga in an abandoned warehouse, where she trained him in fighting with a staff (more credible, she said, for a cleric, than a sword would be) as well as in a martial art which she said came from the East. In the afternoons she instructed him in the details of managing the existing network of safe houses, running messengers to make sure that were well staffed and supplied and remained secure. In the evening he ran with her as she vetted candidates for their “network.” At night he practiced –in his mind, for nothing could be written down– several cyphers which Jadwiga had invented. There was little time for for his own studies, to which he had started to return as he came back to life, and none for the vigorous polemics which he so enjoyed. Indeed, Jadwiga had informed him that he would have to master multiple identities and would only very rarely be able to “be himself,” generally only with her when they met to review his work and plan their next steps.

What was most difficult for Shmuel, however, was not knowing exactly who he was working for.

—So this network of yours, is it your own creation, or do you work with others?

—Many others, Jadwiga said. No one person could run something so complex.

—And who are they? Shmuel asked.

—I really can’t tell you, said Jadwiga, at least not very much. The truth is that I know only a little more than you do. We are pretty diverse in terms of background: followers of the old ways like myself, Ashkenazim like the rabbi, Christians who want to reform the Church in various ways (though not all of these, by any means, are friendly to us, as we have learned the hard way). Around the edges, people like your Assassin friend and, we hope, eventually your Kokab.

—And the aim?

—There is much debate, I hear, in the inner circle. Most of us joined to protect our own people and our own way. But some believe that we can go further, and change the face of Europe and perhaps beyond.

—And you?

—I am not so sure. I agree that something powerful is stirring. But I am not at all sure it is for the good. I see great concentrations of wealth and power emerging, like nothing this planet has ever known, and the rest of us, the vast majority, reduced to the status of tools. We have a long struggle ahead of us. But yes, in the long run, we will not just protect what was, but learn from each other and from the struggle and bring into being something greater.
Shmuel quickly became exhausted and fell ill again. Jadwiga moved him to a safe house outside the city while she nursed him back to health and then installed him with the rabbi’s student in an apartment near the synagogue. When she told him, shortly after this move, that she had to make a run back up to Gdansk he was frightened, both for her and because he was unsure that he could do the job for which she had so rigorous but so rapidly trained him.

–You will be fine, she said.

She looked him in the eyes and then kissed him gently on the lips.

–Do what you know how to, be careful, and when I return, perhaps …

But Shmuel was already in love.


Published by:

Anthony Mansueto

Humanity is the desire to be God (Sartre, Jean Paul. Being and Nothingness, 1943/1993: 556). Being finite, we are aware of the infinite and seek it without limit. Being contingent, dependent on other beings for our existence, we seek the power of Being as such and seek it absolutely. Human history is fundamentally the history of this seeking, and of the distinct ways of being human to which it has given rise. Precisely because we are finite and contingent, our seeking takes place under definite material (physical, ecological, demographic, built-environmental) conditions which shape the ways which emerge, as well as the social structures through which we pursue them. As something set apart we call this power of Being the sacred but it is, in fact, the warp and woof of the world in which we live, driving secular projects as much as those which understand themselves as religious. My work is centered around an effort to engage the sacred analytically, interpretively, normatively, creatively, and practically. My scholarship is centered around an effort to restore theoria to its original sense as an encounter with the sacred which is empirical, analytic, interpretive and normative, and specifically to understand the diverse ways (including secular ways) in which humanity seeks (to be) God in the context of the material realities out which they emerged and the structures through which they operate while engaging these ways normatively, contributing to the transhistorical deliberation around what it means to be human. As an artist I work first and foremost with narrative, telling stories which, blending elements from magic realism, science fiction, and fantasy, highlight humanity’s engagement with the sacred. But I also create paintings, photo collages, and illuminations and am experimenting with alterealities, games which actually change the world, and which engage all these elements in an interactive context. And I work in the medium of food, creating alchemical cuisine which at once encodes meaning and transforms those who consume it —especially in community. My scholarly and creative work aims at charting a new way of being human, at making the sacred present to people in their day to day lives, and at helping people situate their lives and their decisions, individual and collective, in he context of the ultimate aims of human life. My practical engagements with the sacred cross the boundaries between teaching and mentoring, leading and organizing. As a teacher, it is my aim to cultivate free, creative human beings and engaged citizens with a mature spirituality who have the ability to make rationally autonomous decisions regarding questions of meaning and value, to understand their particular calling and how to realize it, to build and exercise power in service to the common good, to learn the difficult spiritual lessons that come from both success and failure in our lives, and thus to pursue and progress along the way they have chosen. In addition to teaching in formal academic and community based settings, I mentor individuals using a process which integrates deep listening with both traditional spiritual disciplines and secular insights drawn from organizing and business strategy. I cultivate both scholars and practitioners, and challenge my students to cross the boundaries between these two domains. As an academic leader I have worked to promote liberal education for students from working class and ethnic minority communities, to make the institutions I serve into centers for deliberation around questions of meaning, value, and public policy, and to restore (nonconfessional, pluralistic, but still normative) engagement with the sacred to its rightful place in the academy. I see this academic leadership as an extension of my broader work as an institutional organizer helping organizations and institutions find their way, and working to build, conserve, and transform them in service to the Common Good. My work as an organizer has also included significant contributions to interfaith dialogue, deliberation, and organizing, from building financial and institutional support for interfaith organizing through catalyzing public deliberation around questions of meaning and value across diverse spiritual and civilizational traditions. I bring to this engagement a substantial record of publications, including nine books and numerous articles in both scholarly journals and journals of public opinion setting forth my vision and strategy, decades of experience teaching the liberal arts to students from working class and ethnic minority communities, a history active civic engagement, primarily in interfaith dialogue, deliberation, and organizing, and a range of institutional leadership roles in the academy including department chair, program director, dean, and campus leader with responsibility for all community college functions for a large rural area. As I continue my formal institutional engagements as an academic administrator over the next several years, I am also looking to build support for my creative work and a consulting practice mentoring individual leaders and organizations across the academic, religious, and civil society sectors. Supporting my work through Patreon is a way to contribute to making this possible while getting a glimpse of my creative process, free or discounted artifacts from my alterealities, and the opportunity to benefit from my mentoring and consulting practice at much reduced rates.

Categories UncategorizedTags , , Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s