And If Not Now, When?

Oct 6, 2022

Photo: Stanley Wu

Dear TNS Friends:

These are the days of harvest blessings in many traditions. A good harvest was often a matter of life or death—of starvation or of plenty for the days and nights of dark and cold in the Northern Hemisphere.

It is also a good time to turn inward ourselves, to harvest what we have garnered since the last harvest, to ask what we have learned that may help us on our path.

As I enter my eightieth year this October, it is also a time of deeper reflection for me—and for many among us who are in or approaching our later years. The great Jewish mystic Rabbi Hillel asked us this same question 2,000 years ago:

If I am not for myself, who will be?
If I am not for others, what am I?
And if not now, when?

Those same questions have been asked by countless saints and sages. They echo down through the centuries. If I’m not for myself, who will be? If I’m not for others, who am I?  And if I do not act on these realizations now, when will I act on them?

These are actually the most profound ethical questions, whether our orientation is religious, spiritual, philosophical, scientific, secular, or otherwise. It doesn’t much matter which of these great paths we follow. The questions Hillel asked are still at the center of our inner lives.

I struggle with these questions even in my eightieth year. What does it truly mean to be for myself? Which of the many parts of myself asks—and which answers—the question. I know I have sought to be for others all my life, but I also know I could have done better and even now could be doing better. And as for “if not now, when?”—when, indeed.

May I suggest to you that The New School is a place where we ask ourselves these questions? We’ve been asking these questions for 15 years, in more than 350 conversations. We’ve asked a remarkable range of philosophers, artists, gardners, teachers, and all kinds of other people working for a better world.

And these conversations have now echoed around the world, with people listening and watching hundreds of thousands of times each year.

But we need to put bread on the tables of the people who bring you The New School. It’s a small but mighty crew. Tiny, in fact. But they need to eat, pay for their shelter, and transport and healthcare and the like.

We do The New School as frugally as possible, and with wonderful volunteer help. But it does need your help.

So I am openly asking you…please, if The New School brings truth, beauty, and goodness into your life, can you help us keep going? We really can’t do it without you. Consider a one time gift or a wonderful monthly donation on your credit card—what you may spend a month on coffee.

Help keep me at it in my eightieth year with our merry band of pranksters: Kyra Epstein, our TNS Coordinator; Ken Adams, our tech guru; Steve Heilig and our other hosts; and the old man.

Thanks for being part of this strange and wonderful community dedicated to the love of learning—to nature, culture, and the inner life.

With love and gratitude,

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