Livestream — David Brooks Talk on Character

Wanna do lunch tomorrow?

New York Times columnist and bestselling author David Brooks will be speaking at a town hall forum on “The Role of Character In Creating an Excellent Life.” The talk is largely based on his new book, The Road to Character. (Read the Times review here.)

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If you live in the Minneapolis, you can attend the event for free, but you can livestream Brooks’ talk tomorrow (May 14th) at 12:00 PM (noon) CST here. (Just click the “On Air” box on the top right.)

I’ll add a link of Brooks’ talk when it’s available.

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Charlie Hebdo, Blasphemy and Modern Civilization

Ross Douthat of The New York Times:

…the kind of blasphemy that Charlie Hebdo engaged in had deadly consequences, as everyone knew it could … and that kind of blasphemy is precisely the kind that needs to be defended, because it’s the kind that clearly serves a free society’s greater good. If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization, and when that scenario obtains it isn’t really a liberal civilization any more. Again, liberalism doesn’t depend on everyone offending everyone else all the time, and it’s okay to prefer a society where offense for its own sake is limited rather than pervasive. But when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed.

Douthat concludes:

Must all deliberate offense-giving, in any context, be celebrated, honored, praised? I think not. But in the presence of the gun — or, as in the darker chapters of my own faith’s history, the rack or the stake — both liberalism and liberty require that it be welcomed and defended.

Read Ross Douthat’s “The Blasphemy We Need” here.

David Brooks: How to Be Religious In the Public Square

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The New York Times columnist David Brooks recently spoke at The Gathering, a Christian philanthropic organization, about “How to Be Religious in the Public Square.”

Brooks covers a lot of compelling ground, including:

  • The difference between “Adam One” and “Adam Two”;
  • The effects of love;
  • The effects of suffering;
  • Our universal longing for transcendence;
  • Discovering that St. Augustine, in Brooks’ words, is his “ultimate hero”;
  • The walls Christians erect against secular culture;
  • How to build effective ramps to secular culture.

It’s classic Brooks, who candidly, winsomely and humbly speaks to the Christian community as a “holy friend,” willing to wound in love by saying what the Church must hear.

Read or listen to David Brooks on “How to Be Religious in the Public Square” here. [Scroll to bottom of page for link.]

Your Mind Is Not a Vacuum

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David Brooks writes about the relationship between the mind, morality and character in The New York Times op-ed article “The Mental Virtues”:

…[the]mind is embedded in human nature, and very often thinking well means pushing against the grain of our nature — against vanity, against laziness, against the desire for certainty, against the desire to avoid painful truths. Good thinking isn’t just adopting the right technique. It’s a moral enterprise and requires good character, the ability to go against our lesser impulses for the sake of our higher ones.

Read Brooks’ “The Mental Virtues” here.

“Songs Exploded From My Head”: Sting’s Story On Going Home

David Brooks of The New York Times writes an interesting article about Sting revisiting his past in order to move imgres-4forward in the present:

Most of us have an urge, maybe more as we age, to circle back to the past and touch the places and things of childhood.

Brooks notes that going back home, as painful as it often is, does three helpful things:

  1. Creates: “The events of childhood are like the Hebrew alphabet; the vowels are missing, and the older self has to make sense of them. Robert Frost’s famous poem about the two paths diverging in the woods isn’t only about the two paths. It also describes how older people go back in memory and impose narrative order on choices that didn’t seem so clear at the time.”
  2. Invents: “…a coherent tradition out of discrete moments and teasing out future implications. He has to see the world with two sets of eyes: the eyes of his own childhood self and the eyes of his current adult self.”
  3. Reorients: “Going back means recapturing the original aspirations. That’s one reason Jews go back to Exodus every year. It’s why Augustine went back during a moment of spiritual crisis and wrote a book about his original conversion.”

The effect of going home for Sting? “His creativity was reborn. Songs exploded from his head.”

Brooks concludes:

Sting’s talk was a reminder to go forward with a backward glance, to go one layer down into self and then after self-confrontation, to leap forward out of self. History is filled with revivals, led by people who were reinvigorated for the future by a reckoning with the past.

Read Brooks’ illuminating article on Sting’s story here.

Update: Canada’s The Globe and Mail also has an article on Sting’s return home:

…as soon as I decided to honour the community I came from and tell their story, the songs started to come thick and fast. I’ve described it as a kind of projectile vomiting; a torrent of ideas, of characters and voices. Verses, couplets, entire songs almost formed whole materialized in front of me as if they’d been bottled up inside of me for many years.