Maximillian Amadeus Banzai (banzai) wrote,
Maximillian Amadeus Banzai

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The high cost of everything

But the ultimate problem with spiritual freedom is that it never ends. As Rorty points out, it widens endlessly. Freedom means always keeping your options open, so it means you never settle on truth, you never arrive, you can never rest. The accumulation of spiritual peak experiences can become like the greedy person's accumulation of money. The more you get, the more you hunger for more. The life of perpetual choice is a life of perpetual longing as you are prodded by the inextinguishable desire to try the next new thing. But maybe what the soul hungers for is ultimately not a variety of interesting and moving insights but a single universal truth. Dostoyevsky has the Grand Inquisitor say, "For the secret of man's being is not only to live but to have something to live for. Without a stable conception of the object of life, man would not consent to go on living."

Today the Inquisitor might say the Bobos are enslaved by their insatiable desire for freedom and diversity. He might warn that all the Bobos' varied experiences may dissolve into nothingness if they don't surrender to something larger than themselves. The end result of pluralism, he'd say, is an endless moving about in search of more and more lightly held ideas, none of which solves essential questions. The pluralistic ethos is fine for the search, but it makes it difficult to reach the sort of resting place that is offered by less elastic creeds, the sort of tranquility that is promised, for example, in the book of Samuel: "Moreover, I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and I will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more."


The generation that gave itself "unlimited choices" recoiled and found that it was still "searching for something." In so many ways we seem to want to return to some lost age of (supposed) spiritual coherence and structure. We seem to sense the cost of our new-found freedom is a loss of connection to other people and true communities. We want to recreate those meaningful ligatures. And yet, more often than not, we're not willing to actually go back to the age of limits, which would mean cutting off our options.

—David Brooks, Bobos in Paradise

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