I hate David Brooks

i hate david brooks

I’ve written about David Brooks before. He is a toffee-nosed middle-of-the-road sort-of-conservative social commentator for the New York Times. He is priggish and frequently clucks his tongue over our decadent society. His preferred society would, I think, be a cartoonish Eisenhower-era America, with everyone living in a little white house and going to church every Sunday, in a rocket car (because David Brooks is a great believer in progress).

Seriously, people like this kill me. They long for the days of Big Religion, when everyone went to church except the really bad people. People like Brooks often whine about how society has suffered without Religion as a Unifying Force.

O yes indeedy, it’s a unifying force, all right. Go ask all the Lutherans and Catholics who died in the Thirty Years War, back in the seventeenth century, about how powerfully they felt about their religion as a unifying force.

But religion is also a civilizing force! the David Brookses cry. Music! Poetry! Art!

(They overlook all the music and poetry and art that’s been created without benefit of religion.)

Which is why this passage, from a recent Brooks NYTimes.com editorial in which he describes Charles Taylor’s book “A Secular Age”, drives me batty:

 “. . . What I most appreciate is [Taylor’s] vision of a “secular” future that is both open and also contains at least pockets of spiritual rigor, and that is propelled by religious motivation, a strong and enduring piece of our nature.

This gives me a splitting headache. First of all: “pockets of spiritual rigor”? Does Christian fundamentalism, or Muslim fundamentalism for that matter, constitute a “pocket of spiritual rigor”? If so, in what way do they add to the value of their respective cultures?

And why would a “secular” future be “propelled” by “religious motivation”? This baffles me completely. I’m a non-believer myself. Can I somehow “propel” myself with “religious motivation” that doesn’t involve believing in a particular religion? Or do I just sideline myself, and allow my culture to be “propelled”?

I don’t know why people read Brooks seriously. I only read him to reassure myself what a completely fatuous bore he is.

Now excuse me while I propel myself into the secular future.

A fine secular Christmas


Neither Partner nor I practices any particular religion.  I spent a couple of years in the mid-2000s trying to recapture my Catholicism, but found it ultimately futile.  Partner and I talk about Buddhism a lot, but I am uneasily aware that Buddhism is easier to talk about than practice.  (For those of you who use “Zen” as an adjective, I recommend a wonderful and very acerbic book called “What Makes You Not A Buddhist,” by a wonderful Bhutanese lama / film director / author (!) named Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse.)



So how did Partner and I, both filthy heathens, spend this Christmas season?



Let’s see:



        We saw “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” on Christmas Eve.

        We exchanged gifts.  Partner gave me a lovely sweater and two lovely shirts.  I like pretty colors, but am often confused by the bright lights in the department stores; Partner corrects my fashion sense, and I invariably get compliments when I wear the things he’s bought for me (so long as I wear them in the combinations he very carefully specifies).  I gave him, among other things, a mounted 1957 one-dollar Silver Certificate.  (I was born in 1957, before the Space Age, so it was a little symbolic.)

        Next morning, we sleepily wished each other a Merry Christmas.

        After some discussion, we went to the closest casino, Twin River, in Lincoln, Rhode Island.

        We left at 1:00 pm with considerably more money than we arrived with.  Merry Christmas!

        We went to a Chinese restaurant and ordered everything on the menu. 

        We ate until we were sick.

        We took our leftovers and went home and napped a bit.

        In the evening, I baked cookies.



This is the perfect secular Xmas, as far as I’m concerned.  And here’s why:




        We both spent it with someone we loved.




And that’s all it takes.



Happy holidays, kids.



%d bloggers like this: