Meet the Big Shaggy

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:

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.

Happy reading!

3 thoughts on “Meet the Big Shaggy

  1. This is certainly not an article that I disagree with. In fact, I have resisted returning to school for a degree in technical work because of the thoughts that he lays out. I need to pay my bills and have a little extra, sure. I don’t need to spend my life doing something technical in pursuit of money though. I would rather have a trivial job and be able spend my time with those I love and trying to understand ‘The Big Shaggy’. We need both, I wish our society didn’t make it seem like it has to be a choice.

    A friend of mine recently called herself a poet. She immediately commented on how she realized that the label seemed silly in modern society. I wish it wasn’t.

    1. I’m both frustrated and amused by the looks I get when I tell people that my main source of dissatisfaction with my current job isn’t financial but substantive. I don’t feel I’m making a difference doing this sort of work, and I want desperately to make a difference. I’m not big on the whole afterlife thing; I kind of feel like my life amounts to what I get done before the heart stops. At the moment, it doesn’t feel like a whole lot…

      1. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to expect job satisfaction in that form anymore. Even if people would like more they usually digress, deciding that this is simply the way it is.

        I have such respect for people that find a way to make their passions worth something in our economy. However, money is not the ultimate decider of what is valuable. Not in my view anyway.

        This is the only life we know that we get for sure. I’m determined not to waste it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s