Intellectual - Poem by gershon hepner
The intellectual who does not ignore us
purports to play the role of a Greek chorus,
although, unlike the chorus, there’s no mask
that covers all the questions he may ask,
he masks his answers like a Delphic oracle
by claiming that his context is historical,
yet when outside the action, he
inspires us to be or not to be.
Inspired by the obituary of Conor Cruise O’Brien, written by William Grimes in the NYT, December 21,2008:
Conor Cruise O’Brien, an Irish diplomat, politician, man of letters and public intellectual who staked out an independent position for Ireland in the United Nations and, despite his Roman Catholic origins, championed the rights of Protestants in Northern Ireland, died Thursday. He was 91 and lived in Howth, near Dublin. His death was announced by the Labor Party, of which Mr. O’Brien was a member. No cause of death was given. He was reported to have suffered a stroke in 1998 and several broken bones in a fall last year. Once described by the social critic Christopher Hitchens as “an internationalist, a wit, a polymath and a provocateur, ” Mr. O’Brien was a rare combination of scholar and public servant who applied his erudition and stylish pen to a long list of causes, some hopeless, others made less so by his combative reasoning. When called upon, he would put down his pen and enter the fray, more often than not emerging bruised and bloodied…. “I think the intellectual in relation to politics is something like the Greek chorus, ” Mr. O’Brien told an interviewer in 2000. “He’s outside the action, but he tells you quite a bit about it.”
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