Create the tapestry of meaning that is your life

Or Ring in the new year with your personal Whoosh. …

David Brooks of the NY Times discusses philosophy in The Arena Culture.  He reviews “All Things Shining” from  Hubert Dreyfus of Berkeley and Sean Dorrance Kelly of Harvard. The book talks about the current secular age where the spiritual void vacated by religion is taken up by transcendent moments.

These “whoosh” experiences take us out of our shell and exist in the moment connected with each other and the universe (multiverse, God, whatever).  This can be as part of a crowd, observing nature, in action, or self-reflection.  Life has no special or central meaning.  Instead it’s a series of whooshes.  So we find meaning by being thankful, serving the world, and creating an environment where we and others can have similar experiences.


Brooks comments “I’m not sure this way of living will ever prove satisfying to most readers.”  How sad.  He invokes God and clings to arenas.

Our most vibrant institutions are collective, not individual or religious. They are there to create that group whoosh: the sports stadium, the concert hall, the political rally, the theater, the museum and the gourmet restaurant.  The activities often dismissed as mere diversions are actually central. … Our culture is defined by arenas. Our self-conception just hasn’t caught up.

Brooks is off the mark.

Large group activities have collectively joined, excited, … and incited … people since the the rise of tribes, with or without the support of state and church, whether it’s the war of the decade, Roman Coliseum games, Klan rallies, or witch burnings.  (Many have been for the social good.  The nasty ones though come first to mind.)  Are the arena whooshes of a Yankees or OU game or Obama or Tea Party rally that different?

Brooks writes:

Though they try, Dreyfus and Kelly don’t give us a satisfying basis upon which to distinguish the whooshing some people felt at civil rights rallies from the whooshing others felt at Nazi rallies.

That’s because there is no difference.  As social creatures we are wired for group whooshes … for better or worse.

Brooks claims:

This book is also a rejection of the excessive individualism of the past several decades, the emphasis on maximum spiritual freedom.

I totally disagree.  It’s precisely the culture of individualism that fills that void.  It makes us ultimately, spiritually, morally responsible for our actions and this world. It empowers us to question mob and majority rule and distinguish between civil rights rallies and Nazi rallies.  It allows us to not just enjoy arena events, but put them in perspective AND build our own good deeds, here, now, in this world (not some fantasy post-death).  In this way we create a tapestry of meaning that encompasses inner and outer worlds, our home, community, and planet, and personal and group experiences.

So start 2011 right and get your own personal whoosh on.


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