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I ask Van Meir if she considers herself obsessed. She bristles at the word. "I'm determined," she says. "I'm trying hard to balance it and not drive my family crazy."
Later that evening, we're sitting 20 rows back from the stage at Town Hall when Lenora Fulani walks to the podium. Her hair is cut fashionably short, and her pumpkin orange sundress seems to glow in the light. Fred Newman, she tells the thousand or so seated before her, is a man who asks questions that some consider subversive -- hard questions like what kind of leaders do we want in government. A conversation with him, she says, takes us "outside the box of conventional wisdom." Fred Newman, she says, is "someone I love and admire more deeply than I could ever express."
From stage left, Newman finally enters. The crowd applauds warmly. He shuffles slowly, like a man who's fallen before. His white hair hangs from his head in long wisps, and his moustache is thick and bushy. He plops down in the brown upholstered chair and looks around, squinting into the light.
"I can't see you," he says, and the crowd laughs.
For the next hour, with Fulani beside him, Newman speaks without interruption. The topic of his talk -- "Can there be honesty in a world without truth?" -- seems at once profound and banal. But for an old man with kidney problems, he oozes charisma.
"What's going on here in the world today?" he asks no one in particular. "Well, that's a tough one. ... From my point of view, as I understand it, as I see it, what's going on is that the world, the whole world, all of us, all of the six, seven billion people, we are collectively going through a profound social transformation -- what some people like to call, in fancy language, a paradigm shift. The way we see the world, the very way which we see the world, the way we see each other, the way we see how things are happening, is going through a shift."
The crowd listens politely. He goes on, talking about the Enlightenment, how man has tried to understand the workings of the universe through scientific and measured ways, how town clocks in 14th- century Europe were practically worshipped, how "new humanism" meant that people would create tools necessary to "re-order nature 100 percent clearly, accurately."
It's an elaborate set-up for what's next.
"Perhaps it is the case," he says in his Bronx accent, "that this universe in which we live, in all its complexity -- its physical complexity, its social complexity, its political complexity, its psychological complexity -- maybe, maybe, just possible -- that the world is too complex for us mere mortals, us human beings, to fully understand. Maybe there are things which we are never going to understand."
On a practical level, he says, it does no good to decide who's right and who's wrong, whether it's a feuding family or it's the Palestinians and Israelis. "What about the possibility of both the Palestinians and the Israelis being right?" he asks. From the back, an enthusiastic "OK" sounds out.
"Truth," he concludes, "is a dying concept. We're gonna have to figure out how to go forward without it. And to tell you the truth" -- much laughter -- "I think we'll do a lot better without it. I don't think we need it any longer. In fact, I think it's a hindrance. Can there be honesty in a world without truth? My answer -- in a word -- is 'Only.' Only in a world without truth can there be honesty."
A few more words, a promise that "I love you all," and he's done. The crowd applauds warmly and files out into the rain. Van Meir is chuckling. "Well," she asks, "what'd you think?"
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Mo gibs muh 'dat.
One step forward, two steps back.
Hey "Here's Your Editorial", what does Dale Earnhardt Junior have to do with this article?