Discover how this thought-provoking novelette by a psychiatrist weaves rich characters, a suspenseful plot, and profound insights, leaving readers pondering the complex questions it raises about God, violence, and human compassion—and feeling moved.
The Unmoved Mover, by Ronald W. Pies, MD
On a recent Saturday morning I drove past a local synagogue and was stunned when I observed a police cruiser parked at the front entrance guarding the worship service. But then I remembered the anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 27, 2018 that left 11 dead and 6 wounded, the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States. In his timely novelette, Ronald W. Pies, MD, transports us into the lives of teachers and students after their fictional Jewish school has been invaded.
And for full disclosure: I have maintained a decades-long friendship with the novelette’s author and Psychiatric Times Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, as we continue to hone our craft as poets . I also have a bookshelf filled with his works of fiction, poetry, philosophy, ethics, and the comprehensive 2023 collection of essays he has published in Psychiatric Times, Psychiatry at the Crossroads: Can Psychiatry Find the Path to a Truly Humanistic Science?
The most recent addition to Ron’s work, The Unmoved Mover, provides the reader with many pleasures. Richly drawn characters evoke our caring. A suspenseful plot amplifies their conflicts. And the narrator provides insights from the worlds of psychiatry, Judaism, and philosophy.
The story follows the struggles of Aaron Shavoor, an associate dean at the fictional Baruch Spinoza Academy, a Jewish prep school, in the aftermath of a school shooting. In the first paragraph we are told that Shavoor “beheld the carnage and held the bodies.” As the novelette unfolds, Shavoor’s symptoms of PTSD and bereavement are complicated by his relationships with one of the victims and her family who must sort out their own painful wounds.
The breadth of Pies’ psychiatric expertise, knowledge of Jewish traditions and teachings, and his sense of compassion are on full display in the The Unmoved Mover. Not only do we learn about Shavoor and the challenges faced by the survivors of a school shooting, we also learn about Aristotle’s view of God as an “unmoved mover—the ultimate cause of motion in the Cosmos, who was not himself moved,” a God who knew about the Holocaust but “didn’t do much about it.” And we are compelled to wonder how this God permits the plague of gun violence.
The novelette is 56 pages long and can easily be read in an hour or two. You will learn the wisdom of the ages from a biopsychosocialspiritual viewpoint. You will be entertained. And you will be moved.
Dr Berlin has been writing a poem about his experience of being a doctor every month for the past 25 years in Psychiatric Times® in a column called “Poetry of the Times.” He is instructor in psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts. His latest book is Freud on My Couch.