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Michael Tolkin

I just watched The Rapture (1991), the first directing effort of my co-religionist Michael Tolkin, with whom I believe I share almost no values. The movie certainly kept my attention but it seemed like a vicious smear of Christianity.

Matt writes on Imdb.com: "Try to see this film with someone whose religious conviction is different from you own. You should be in for hours of debate over the meaning of the film and the motivation for Rogers' actions."

I didn't find it thought provoking at all. I come from a Seventh Day Adventist background. That's a form of Protestant Christianity. It has more than its share of apocalyptic eschatological wackos but this film didn't provoke a scintilla of thought in me. Neither did Last Temptation of Christ for that matter. Only people who are not actively involved in an organized religion could believe that either film was thought provoking, spiritual or a serious examination of religious themes.

What kills me is that in an interview with the Jewish Journal, Tolkin says it is his background in making religous-themed movies like The Rapture that snagged him a prized Wexner fellowship to study Judaism. Oy ve! Talk about making Judaism look stupid in front of the goyim.

Here's an excerpt from the 7/17/98 Jewish Journal: "In Hollywood terms, Michael Tolkin would be deemed a "player." In fact, he was Oscar-nominated for writing "The Player," the trenchant Hollywood satire that director Robert Altman turned into a tour-de-force film back in 1992. But Tolkin believes that his near-celebrity status had no special impact on the Wexner selection team. He feels he was chosen because of his years of Torah study with Rabbi Daniel Landes, and because two films he both wrote and directed, "The Rapture" and "The New Age," revealed that he is "theologically inclined." (He also has a screenplay credit on the current science-fiction hit, "Deep Impact.")

"Tolkin stresses that he is not a community leader in a conventional sense: "I have the least connection to any Jewish infrastructure, but I guess they thought it was a good idea to have one artist in the group." He jokes that his involvement with Wexner has not convinced him to run for a Federation office. Still, "Wexner goaded me into being more directly active in my own community." The result: he funded a new program that brought Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of B'nai David-Judea onto the campus of Temple Emanuel Community Day School, where Tolkin's children are enrolled. Kanefsky's mandate was to introduce the Emanuel faculty and staff to Orthodox perspectives on lashon hara, the rules of civil speech. In this way, Tolkin feels he has contributed to Jewish survival by taking modest steps toward fostering interdenominational study."

I agree with this review on Imdb.com by Sanatan Rai (sanat@stanford.edu): "After watching the movie, one is faced with a dichotomy. One must either conclude that the film is utter garbage or that there is some subtle allegory that has evaded one's perhaps inadequate sensibilities. Which view one takes, depends of course on one's evaluation of one's abilities. If one regards oneself as not being a complete imbecile, one is apt to come to the former conclusion.

"There are however two things for which this film may be watched. The first is Ms. Rogers' acting. Ms. Rogers is a consummate actress, and her performance is very good. One is sorry to see it thus wasted. The other thing is that the naked flesh in the movie, including Ms. Rogers' is, rather nice. The latter may be contrasted with the American filmmaker's tendency of displaying underfed women with minimal charms in the buff. Remember Ms. Paltrow in `Shakespeare in Love'? Three women are shown partially or completely nude, and they do not disappoint. What the movie is trying to say is difficult to determine. It certainly is not a simple story, told straight. This is primarily because there is not much by way of a story. It fails to make any interesting points about God or faith. Granted, saying something new about the gent upstairs is difficult. This should not however, have prevented the director from trying."

What supports my view that the film is utter garbage is this essay by Tolkin in the Jewish Journal which reached the heights of absurdity. Here's an excerpt from the 3/22/02 publication:

"The Kurdish father living in Sweden kills his daughter because she dishonored the family when she refused the marriage he arranged for her; Andrea Yates kills her children to spare them from her fundamentalist vision of Hell; a Hindu pogrom against Muslims in India kills hundreds, including children; a mother and father in Upland, Calif., members of a fake Amish cult, refuse medical care for their son and pray over him until he dies of meningitis; in the last 20 years the Catholic Church has paid out almost $1.3 billion as hush money to settle pedophilia lawsuits; Jews and Muslims are killing each other’s children in a battle partly ignited over claims to the Temple Mount and the competition for its control, challenging each other’s title to their shrines as a lie or a fantasy.

"The lonely man of some faith hides from this torment at the cost of sleep and conscience, or he sleeps and maintains the fiction of conscience at the cost of his span of attention. But if he slows down and listens, his instinct tells him that no one with a conscience can still offer religion as a haven from the chaos of the world when religion moves deeper into fundamentalism, in retreat from responsibility for the chaos. He doesn’t believe that God is dead, not at all. He believes in God and a created universe, but he’s ready to walk away from religion and let them all kill each other. Except that he really doesn’t want this sentiment of disgust heard by God as a petition that God might grant, so he tries to keep it muffled."

The Jewish Journal published this response a week later by Chaim Sisman: "I was quite impressed with Michael Tolkin ("Faith and Proof," March 22). It takes considerable literary imagination to equate the Kurdish daughter being killed by her father, the wacko nurse drowning her five children, and Jews bringing babies to where they live on the West Bank (so they can be killed by their religion-of-peace Semitic cousins)."

Aristocat writes this review on Imdb.com: I am a born-again Christian and saw this movie [The Rapture] last night on broadcast TV -- though I missed the first part of it. I can see a certain amount of positive value in the movie, but also some overwhelming limitations.

The key problem with the film is that it presents a profound misunderstanding of the Christian faith. This is most clearly revealed in three direct statements, all of which occur near the end of the film. Being careful not to reveal anything about the plot, the daughter utters a direct contradiction of a most basic tenet of Christian faith. She says, "God loves us because we love him." (I think that is an exact quote.) But if you read 1 John chapter 4 (among many other passages in the Bible), you see that this is exactly reversed from the truth. 1 John 4, verse 19 states it most directly, "We love, because He [God] first loved us." [Now, to be true to the passage, the "We love" refers to our love for other people as well as for God -- but the point still stands.]

The second revealing comment comes from the main character (Mimi Rogers). She states that God has "too many rules" -- and that is true, for her confused understanding of God. But then the film fails to present any corrective to that confusion. [The actual corrective is that when we see that God truly loves us, then we can trust him and we *want* to please him, and his "rules" become our desires... albeit imperfectly, in this life. Not to mention that she had a bunch of rules that didn't come from God.]

The third failure is that the movie portrays entrance into heaven as the result of a magical incantation. If you just *say* "I love God" then, BAM, you're in! Now, certainly the Church itself often presents this fallacy, so it is no surprise to find it in a film such as this. But nevertheless, it is a gross misunderstanding.

There are other theological problems with the film script. All the supposed Christian characters are attached to what is clearly a pseudo-Christian cult -- complete with a divine oracle who utters prophecies that contradict Scripture. None of the Christian characters have any problems (except for Rogers, who obviously needs psychological counseling as well as spiritual healing). All of the Christian characters exude an other-worldly serenity -- except perhaps Rogers' boss. And the "pearl dream" thing is just plain bizarre [OK, maybe having missed the first part of the movie hurt me on that count...but I doubt it.] But at the same time, the film's writer(s) clearly know a lot of the terminology of Christianity, and even have some insights into some of the perplexing issues that arise in Christian theology. This, I suspect, is what makes the film disturbing to many people.

LUKE SAYS: For a true understanding of Christianity, visit my father's web site, www.goodnewsunlimited.org

Michael Tolkin's brother Stephen is also a screenwriter. Here's an excerpt from a 3/9/01 Jewish Journal article that says Stephen modeled his leading male character in the TV show ‘Kate Brasher’ on Gateways Beit T’Shuvah leader Rabbi Mark Borovitz.

"About six years ago, [Stephen Tolkin] met Borovitz, then about to enter rabbinical school, at the Shabbat dinner table in the L.A. home of his brother, writer-director Michael Tolkin ("The Player," "The Rapture"). He was immediately taken with the charismatic spiritual leader of Gateways Beit T’Shuvah, a residential treatment center for Jews in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. A few years later, he turned to Borovitz for counseling after a friend descended into substance abuse. "He was like a sage, a tzaddik," Tolkin recalled. "But his advice was very practical."

"When the writer-director created "Kate Brasher," about a struggling single mother (Mary Stuart Masterson) who goes to work for a community advocacy center, he used Borovitz as the model for the center’s founder, Joe Almeida (Hector Elizondo). In the series, we learn that Almeida created the organization while rebuilding his life after his teenaged daughter was killed in gang crossfire. Borovitz, an ex-convict and recovering alcoholic, also vanquished his demons and co-founded a center to help others conquer overwhelming odds in their lives. "Both Joe and Mark founded a tabernacle," said Tolkin, 47, who now attends High Holy Days services at Beit T’Shuvah. "They made a temple of light in the darkness. And they both did it out of their own suffering."

Michael Tolkin's wife recently published a book about raising kids based on Jewish teachings. Here's an excerpt from a 3/23/01 Jewish Journal article:

"Wendy Mogel, author of a bold and refreshing new Jewish parenting book, recently gave a lecture at the Skirball Cultural Center to the volunteer docents, most of them Jewish grandparents. By the time she finished her presentation on the hazards and remedies of expecting too much from our overindulged, overprotected, over-scheduled children, she could almost see the senior citizens pumping their arms in a victorious "yes!"

""I think many of them feel their children are spoiling their grandchildren, and they’re so happy to hear someone justify what they, through experience, believe children need," Mogel said in a recent interview with The Jewish Journal, talking about her new book "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children" (Scribner, $25)."

ON THE OTHER HAND, Tolkin wrote the brilliant Robert Altman movie The Player (1992), one of those rare movies that is better than the book (in this case the novel by Tolkin).

Luke Doesn't Get The Rapture

Screenwriter and journalist Rodger Jacobs aka Martin Brimmer phoned me Tuesday night, 7/2/02.

Rodger: "You just don't get it [The Rapture (1991)], do you? Now, I've read all of Michael Tolkin's books... It's about the inability to feel beyond superficiality."

Luke: "Oh."

Rodger: "It's about the inability of modern humans to even comprehend things that are transcendent such as God and stuff."

Luke thinks: Usually when people write about the inability of humanity to do X and Y, it is because they can't do X and Y. So maybe Tolkin is unable to comprehend the transcendent.

Rodger: "It's no mistake allegorically that her job is as a telephone operator. You need to put all your theology aside and give the film another look and pay attention to the characters and some of the symbolism going on there.

"Because of technology, we are so different from humans 2000 years ago. We're hopeless. Let's say the rapture would happen. So few of us would even make the cut. She spends so much of her life in oblivion and giving in to material desires, so by the time she turns around... And when she does turn around, she does it from a self-centered place. It's not real. It's not pure.

"My favorite book of Tolkin's is Among the Dead, a take on Herman Melville's short story, Bartleby the Scrivener. I admire him greatly. Paul Schrader is another screenwriter who injects a lot of moralism into movies."

8/30/02

Howard Kaplan writes for the 8/30/02 www.Jewishjournal.com about Michael Tolkin's latest book Under Radar:

"Recently, I heard Michael Tolkin speak at Temple Beth Am about "Under Radar." Pacing frenetically, he explained that midway through the writing he had stalled and shelved the manuscript. During that time, slipping on his own spiritual path — parallel to the novel’s — he had ransacked various synagogues for answers and had succeeded only in worrying his wife.

"Tolkin has regained his footing, and in this magnificent novel, so has his main character, Tom Levy. Best-known for his screenplay of "The Player" (based on his first novel) and for scripts like "Changing Lanes," Tolkin writes characters who move through a mire of moral and spiritual ambiguity. Like their creator, they don’t have an easy time of it. "Under Radar" chronicles one such man’s journey to redemption."

Luke says: I wonder if Tolkin, during his search for spiritual truth, stepped inside an orthodox synagogue? Most Reform and Conservative synagogues are not religously and morally seriously. They are more like ethnic clubs. I loved Robert Altman's film The Player, based on Tolkin's script and novel, but aside from that I'm dubious of Tolkin's writings. I watched The Rapture. I've read his essay on the Exodus in the Jewish Journal and reviews of his books but I just don't sense a genuine moral struggle or exploration of serious religion in his fluffy new age lite books. Not that I've read any of them, aside from The Player.

I suspect that Tolkin's book is another pretentious exploration of moral themes that will make no intellectual, moral or religious demands on its readers. Just the stuff the secular Jewish establishment loves.

9/25/02

I've long suspected that Michael Tolkin was a moron about moral issues. Now this article by Rachel Abramowitz in the 9/25/02 Los Angeles Times confirms it.

"Liberals are on the side of the underdog," says writer-director Michael Tolkin, author of "The Player" and "Changing Lanes." "The people who've had their cities turned into rubble look like the underdog. There's embarrassment about being a Jew and a feeling of alienation from the Jewish community, a fear that it's been taken over by the right wing."

As Tolkin sees it: "Everybody in Hollywood is obsessed with story and used to thinking their way out of a plot. There's no obvious way out of this. I don't know anyone who can get three paragraphs through a discussion of the Middle East crisis without being struck mute."

10/11/02

Dennis Prager writes in the 10/11/02 Jewish Journal:

Is there an issue that some Hollywood star — director, producer, actor actress — has not publicly commented on? It’s hard to name one.

The Palestinian/Islamic/Arab war to destroy Israel is the moral test of our time. If you are silent on this issue, you are either morally confused, immoral or lack courage.

Many of us have long argued that leftists do not ask, "Who is right and who is wrong?" but rather, "Who is strong and who is weak?" in determining their positions on world and national issues. The substitution of power criteria for moral criteria is one of the reasons the left so often takes immoral positions. It is, therefore, helpful to hear such a candid acknowledgment of Hollywood liberals’ moral confusion. Not to mention ignorance — no Palestinian city has been "turned into rubble."

Most of Hollywood’s Jews have little or nothing to do with Jewish causes, Jewish communal life or Judaism. Their causes are those of the left, their community is largely like-minded Hollywood folks and their values come from liberalism, not Judaism. Moreover, the silence on Israel of Hollywood’s most prominent Jews enables the non-Jewish stars to remain silent. If the Jews don’t care about Israel, why should they?

Ever since I learned that Richard Wagner — whose music is among the greatest ever written — was a racist anti-Semite, I learned that I had to disassociate artists from their art. So, I never expected anything morally significant from artists, in Hollywood or anywhere else, and am therefore not surprised at Hollywood’s silence about Israel’s suffering. But it remains a moral failure.

Michael Tolkin then delivers an angry personal attack in response:

[Prager] lies about the real subject of the Times article — that a group of Hollywood Jews are trying to find a way to reach the community, which can only happen in a language the community speaks. The problem for Prager is that artists speak a language he refuses to learn.

Prager declares himself intellectually dead by his own hand, since he reduces art to nothing more than diversion or decoration, and artists to nothing more than mindless children.

[LF: I think Prager understands these leftists all too well but like their counterparts in academia, they want to believe themselves on such a high level of communication that mere mortals like Prager can't understand their cant.]

But he has to do this, otherwise he would have to live with contradictions, a balance impossible for most conservatives who split the world into good and evil, and especially deny their own contribution to the evil one is fighting. Artists teach nothing if not connection, and connection breeds sympathy, and sympathy sometimes exceeds itself, chesed (lovingkindness) without gavurah (restriction).

But the impulse to unlimited compassion is better than the impulse toward unlimited judgment, else we would not pray every day for God’s mercy. The liberal fantasy is the dream of what might be, like the bounty of a Botticelli spring, and the conservative fantasy is kitsch, cowboy art, nostalgia for a world that never was, with punishment for those who tell the truth about that self-deception.

Prager’s politics may even be Jewish heresy. The Torah is brave enough to recognize our own role in the creation of Amalek while still calling for Amalek’s destruction, but the Torah is braver than Dennis Prager, who has yet to move to Israel with his family, so his children can ride the buses until they’re old enough to join the army, rather like the son of that terrible leftist Michael Lerner.

[LF: Tolkin is a moron. A couple of years ago, Prager condemned the Reform movement for cancelling their kids' trip to Israel due to the fighting. Prager encouraged his own son David to spend a year in Israel after high school (returning in the summer of 2002), delaying college a year, to study Torah in a yeshiva. Prager broadcast for a week from Israel in the middle of the terror and made a documentary about Israel's struggle.]

The right-wingers here who call for the harshest treatment of the Arabs, while keeping their children out of the Israel Defense Forces, are cousins of those rich leaders of Hamas who strap the bombs on the children of the poor, never on their own. Prager gets his courage by proxy, the courage that gives him the right to call me a coward.

4/20/03

Meeting Michael Tolkin

On 4/20/03, I walked up Hilgard Avenue in Westwood.

So, it's 4:05PM and I see the tall rumpled figure of author Michael Tolkin walk in. I've flayed this man regularly on my website. I fear approaching him. So I let ten minutes go by when I could've spoken with a famous and successful novelist and screenwriter. Eventually I walk in and strike up a conversation with him. He's evidently never heard of "Luke Ford." Lucky for me.

We talk about the pain of bad reviews. He says he told his friends and family not to tell him about the reviews for the movie Deep Impact, which he wrote. Michael says his latest novel has gotten flayed on Amazon.com. He sarcastically says that we should start rating people on the internet.

Tolkin looks just what you'd imagine for a screenwriter and novelist. Tousled, rumpled, tall, a tad awkward, awfully smart looking, with a small head, wrinkles, pinched skin from wearing glasses which he puts on and off.

Tolkin speaks on the final panel with advertising whiz and super-Jew David Suissa, moderated by UCLA Hillel rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller. Incidentally, the program lists Rabbi Uri Goldstein and Julie Yanofsky-Goldstein, husband and wife, as "helping to develop more opportunities for orthodox students on campus."

I've heard many Orthodox Jews complain that Rabbi Seidler-Feller has not done that. Rabbi S-F studied under the great Rav Soleiveitchik at Yeshiva University but has moved so far left that he's probably no longer Orthodox though he may be orthoprax.

Rabbi S-F poked his head in a door and saw me. "You've been to every one of these?"

Luke: "Yes." I've been to all four of them.

Suissa looks sleek and cool, as an advertising exec should.

Tolkin speaks after Suissa. He hasn't prepared his remarks and speaks off the cuff: "My grandparents [came from Europe]. My great grandfather made uniforms for the army. My grandparents moved to Montreal. My parents asked themselves why be Jewish. While they never gave it up, [they didn't observe Jewish Law]. They would walk past shuls on the way to lunch on Yom Kippur. My mother never sat down to a seder until I was about seven or eight years old.

"I grew up with the Maxwell House Haggadah. It wasn't until I was in my mid-forties that I got through the whole thing."

Tolkin says he started studying Judaism ten years ago. He wants Jewish students to master Jewish texts and use that power of analysis on the Greco-Roman academy aka the modern university. "One thing that is missing from the modern intellectual world is a marriage between secular learning and Judaism.

"I've become a more critical thinker, a better thinker, since I started studying Judaism. There are few critics in the true sense where Judaism is a deep part of their reference system."

Tolkin told of buying long candlesticks just before his Passover seder. The owner of the store, which was filled with incense and Buddhas and Hindu idols, was a married Sephardic mother who planned to have a CD player at the center of her seder table to play the various sections of the seder and her and her husband would chant along. Tolkin said he was a Reform Jew and she denounced Reform Judaism as inauthentic, which he found amusing.

"What she was giving was too charming to argue over. I just wanted to keep getting more. She managed to live phenomenally rich contradictions."

Question from a UCLA professor of medicine: "Do you believe in God and what's your concept of God?"

Tolkin won't talk about God in public. "When you see the world right now... When you see all the religious contention there is... I want to say absolutely nothing at all, to make absolutely no reference to God. Even though I believe the Torah is historically written, I believe it is divine and it has to be read as a unity. It can only be read as though it is divine. Particularly right now when we are in the middle of a religious war [is he referring to Iraq?], I think any discussion of God...is [wrong]."

I ask Tolkin: "What are your reflections on your debate with Dennis Prager in the Jewish Journal about Jews in Hollywood and what many see as their lack of support for the state of Israel?"

Michael: "Does everybody know what he's talking about?"

Tolkin gave the backstory. That he told the LA Times that Hollywood is liberal and sides with the underdog, and Palestinians are seen as the underdog, hence Jews in Hollywood are loathe to speak out in support of Israel. Then Prager jumped on him.

"I wrote a vitriolic polemic [against Prager 10/11/02] and made one huge ugly error [that Prager wouldn't send his kids to Israel when he did send his son David]... Other than that, everything else I stood by. What bothered me was that after I wrote that, and went to shul, I can't tell you how many rabbis and scholars and community leaders came up to me and thanked me for it. Because I don't care, because I'm not in the Jewish community except voluntarily... I have no community and institutional position... I was able to say something that a lot of people were afraid to say, which was to take on a bully."

Tolkin got his Bar Mitzvah from Temple Emmanuel in Beverly Hills from a charismatic rabbi who Michael's father hated. Why? Because the rabbi would quote the Playboy philosophy approvingly from the pulpit. The rabbi also lived it out in real life and got caught in an ever-worsening series of scandals. Still, Tolkin says he was a charismatic, gifted rabbi who gave him some great teachings and spurred his love of Judaism. Just because someone falls and sins spectacularly doesn't discredit their teachings and good works, says Tolkin.

10/23/03

Apology Not Accepted

With Israel fighting for its survival (I know this phrase is a cheap shot because when has Israel not been fighting for its survival), what does the Jewish Journal put on its cover this week? Those three words, linking to a typically incoherent essay from the terrific screenwriter and novelist Michael Tolkin, who also manages to consistently be a moral idiot.

Tell me if you can make heads of tails of what he's trying to say.

Particularly dishonest was the Journal tag for the story inside: "Taking New Republic columnist Gregg Easterbrook to task for his claim that Jews "worship money above all else." What Easterbrook really said was that certain Jewish executives, like certain non-Jewish executives "worship money above all else." What Gregg said was wrong. Hollywood executives would not make money praising white supremacists or criticizing black leaders like Martin Luther King. Hollywood execs often put their leftist values ahead of making money, as Michael Medved shows in his book Hollywood vs America. For example, G-rated films make more money than PG, which make more money than R. So why make so many R-rated films except that you want to be cutting-edge?

I'm now waiting for an apparently self-hating Christian like Easterbrook to call another Godless Jew like Tolkin for advice on how he can further grovel to the Liberal Jewish Media.

While Israel has been under siege since September 2001, I'm unaware of Tolkin doing anything.

Rodger Jacobs writes: "As much as I love his writing, I must agree with you that the essay he wrote was rather rambling and incoherent. Reads like something written hastily under a looming deadline. Too bad. Tolkin is best in ruminating on issues of moral cloudiness and human free will in opposition to God's law, a subject upon which he can damn near write any novelist and screenwriter under the table."

Nov. 5, 2010:

Dennis Prager writes:

If my mail is any indication, I suspect I aroused considerably more anger among Jews by arguing that man is not basically good (and that the belief in man’s innate goodness is neither rational nor Jewish) than I would have had I argued that there is no God. If my suspicion is true, it supports my contention that many Jews have substituted faith in humanity for faith in God. Otherwise, why all the anger? Only one letter actually argues that people are basically good. The rest raise unrelated issues or just attack me. (To read the letters referred to here, see Page 4.)

Let’s begin with Michael Tolkin, a self-described “socialist liberal.” Reading Mr. Tolkin’s comments, one would think I had defamed the universally loved Anne Frank. Yet all I did was differ with one line in Anne Frank’s diary because it is the most frequently cited example of the belief among Jews that people are basically good.

Yet, Mr. Tolkin describes my respectful philosophical difference with one line in Anne Frank’s diary this way: I have “lectured to” Anne Frank, I have “robbed her particular soul of her particular experience,” I have “thrown [her] into the ash heap generalization of ‘young people,’ ” I have caused Mr. Tolkin to “want to scream at this desecration,” and I have engaged in “robbing” and “erasing” Anne Frank’s name because I referred to her as a “teenage girl.”

After excoriating me for differing with Anne Frank, Mr. Tolkin proceeds to the issue itself. He writes that in spite of all of Anne Frank’s suffering, “she believed in goodness.” But belief in goodness was not the subject of my column, nor of the Anne Frank remark I quoted.

The subject of my column (and Anne Frank’s comment) was belief in man being basically good. It’s tough to see how Mr. Tolkin missed that. In any event, I passionately believe in goodness. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have written my article, because I believe that we can only increase goodness in the world if we first acknowledge how morally flawed human nature is.

Mr. Tolkin counters my argument that Anne Frank engaged in wishful thinking with this: “She didn’t engage in ‘wishful thinking,’ she engaged in the hardest work of all, finding good where there’s no reason for anything but bitterness. This is the real meaning of the Jewish admonition to choose life.” Now, every normal human being wants to find good wherever possible. That is not the same, however, as claiming that people are basically good. I don’t understand why this distinction eludes Mr. Tolkin. It is, in fact, quite possible to find good wherever one can and at the same time understand that people are not basically good. I do it every day.