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Examined Life
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Fall 2019

Issue 20

The annotated table of contents below offers a sneak peek at what's in Issue 20.

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On Choosing Life

By and

It’s reasonable to wonder whether it’s fair to bring children into a deteriorating world, and yet it’s nevertheless hard to shake the suspicion that, for many of the people inveighing against the morality of child-rearing, the prospect of a life without children appears to be less a sacrifice than a relief.



Treat Yourself


February 2017: my first winter in New York; the furthest I have ever lived from the equator. Getting out of bed is my finest accomplishment every day that I manage it. The stagnant air bleeds through the doorframe to the backyard and hovers in my room, staring at me in utter distaste. Later, I will recall these months as the first in my memory of having been forgotten by God.

Bad Infinity


“In the United States at this time,” Lionel Trilling wrote in 1949, “liberalism is not only the dominant but even the sole intellectual tradition.” These words are strange to read today. One cannot imagine someone writing them now and, in retrospect, they suggest a dangerous hubris. And yet it is not clear that, applied either to Trilling’s time or to ours, they are wrong.



A World Without Children


Perhaps, in other words, we should simply reconcile ourselves to the fact that our affluent, democratic societies will experience gradual depopulation as long as fertility rates fall below the replacement level. Why should that be regrettable?

Half a Person


In December 2018, I found myself unexpectedly pregnant. I have three children, the oldest of whom is in high school, and I had not planned on negotiating the difficulties of pregnancy and early childhood at this point in my life and career. Adding a decade or so of intensive child-raising to what I’d already committed to meant curtailing my ability to achieve what I both want and need to achieve in my finite lifetime. I asked myself, what are children for?

Quiet Time


For the first six hours of my daughter’s life, I felt no love for her. I smiled for my camera and I smiled for my wife, but what else was I going to do?

Unnecessary Gifts


Christians who forgo marriage and parenthood are counting on finding their fulfillment in another world. But what if I can have it both ways?

Close Likenesses


My mother and I were walking down Agua Marina Street in Dominican Republic. The sun blazing and my father dying.

To Be Continued


I remember dancing to a Temptations song with my two-month-old son Julian in my arms, the late afternoon sun filling our living room, and thinking, This must be one of those quintessential joys-of-parenting moments.



Being a Kid


What do you think is the best part of being a kid?



The Defender


He is the ambassador of a Jewish community rooted in an old Tehran that no longer exists.





It was, in retrospect, merely the hollow shell of a once-fearsome system, but we still felt trepidation as we passed by train from Finland into the USSR in the middle of June 1989.



Perhaps like me you occasionally find yourself scanning the professional autobiographies of other people. Opening the CVs of strangers with whom you have only faintly tangential relationships and scrolling down, far down. I feel myself fully aware that I’m wasting time when I do this. What could I possibly get out of this exercise in prurient professional curiosity? Shouldn’t I have something better to do with my spare time?

Bullshit Jobs


Work, work, work, work, work, sings Rihanna through the grocery store sound system. Why do we have to do it? What else do we have to do? The questions are staging a comeback. Old dreams of new deals and new dreams of old jobs wake and walk.

The Real Lolita


I have read Lolita differently at different times in my life. At first I read it flat-footedly, just as an object of dazzling beauty. I must have found it on my parents’ shelves, where I often foraged for reading on nights when I couldn’t sleep.