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A friend asked for some observations on the 18 Feb 07 NY Times article by David Brooks, "Human Nature Redux." "I found it disturbing," she said. I had read only a little bit of it; it seemed too negative to give more time to. But I promised to take a better look. Here's my response.
K: I re-read David Brooks column a number of times. My initial evaluation of it, as too negative too give our limited time and energy to, still holds. I don't regularly read his column, so although I remember some things as being interest and helpful, I don't know what his usual views and positions are. This column seems to me to be pompous, pretentious and even dishonest.
For a start, to announce as he did that things are worse than they used to be is hardly news. And to claim it as the result of new scientific findings seems clearly to indicate he is not up on those findings. His ending, about how much more he knows in comparison to anti-evolution conservatives, is smart-ass.
Essentially, he's telling readers what he thinks they would like to hear.
He is essentially restating the Lutheran and Augustinian view of human nature as hopelessly corrupt. He's a spokesman for what Thomas Berry calls the "most pathological culture ever" at the very beginnings of its becoming aware of its pathology. It's a first step toward working out a new cosmology. In that sense, it's hopeful. But it plays too much with peoples' feelings, as I see it.
My guess is that more than anything the column reflects the season; it's definitely a depressing time and we long for better weather. He's expressing that depression. And ignoring centuries, even millennia, of different perspectives which gave us things like Ground Hog day, Mardi Gras, Lent, Chinese New Year, et al, with their profound insights into our human situation. My main view is that this column is devoid of human wisdom and we have to be careful not to let it exploit us with its pathological views anymore than we let commercial advertisers exploit us with theirs.
Do you know the Yuri Zhivago poem about all this? (Don't read it as a theological statement but as one about the human heart in the universe):
... and when midnight comes
and all creatures and all flesh fall silent,
as spring puts forth the rumor,
that just as soon as there is better weather,
death itself will be overcome
by the power of the Resurrection.
Another way to say it is that while evil certainly is a reality in the world, the question is, Does it have the last word in the universe?
All this is probably more than you were asking for!
Thursday, February 22, 2007