Here’s the first of (hopefully) many entries in our list of required reading. Since I began by discussing the need for a universal language, some keycode that will allow us access to the workings of the multifaceted human mind, I thought this would be a good place to start:
David Brooks, “History for Dollars.” The New York Times, June 7, 2010. You can access this article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/08/opinion/08brooks.html?_r=0.
I was working, that summer, on an essay for the Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies (Vol. XXIII/1: 2011) on John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University (which will also be featured on this list in future), and in the process of researching the topic, I came across this editorial of Brooks’. In an age of practical education, when pragmatism outshines idealism and philosophy gives way to the paycheck, Brooks reminds us of the need for continued study of the humanities, and through them, of humanity itself. He calls it The Big Shaggy, one of the best descriptions of that hairy monster that lives inside us all and inspires both the best and the worst acts we commit, from the impulse that led to the bombing of the Boston marathon to the courage that led first responders to give their lives for the people of West, Texas, when their fertilizer plant blew.
Brooks reminds us that there is more to life than business or computer science degrees can adequately address. We are living beings, bundles of contradictory emotions that refuse to be reconciled or explained. Truth be told, there is some measure of bipolarity in all of us: we oscillate between happiness and sadness, confidence and depression; we lash out in fear as often as we reach out in love; we struggle to keep our ship of state from tacking wildly in the winds of change. In order to truly understand one another, to see the man behind the curtain (if you will), we need to see into the machinery that makes us tick. We need to meet The Big Shaggy.