Thursday, September 22, 2016

Thursday Brooks

We have three articles by David Brooks:
1) "Three Views of Marriage." There are three predominant lenses nowadays for how marriage should be viewed:

    a) psychological. Searching for someone who scores high in pleasant character traits, and not choosing to overlook problematic middos. Not focusing on factors that are unimportant or short-lived issues. This viewpoint believes no one really changes.

    b) romantic. Love. Looooooove. If a couple initially has it, then they will be inseparable come the hard stuff. Love will keep us together, love is all you need, cue any song from anytime.

    c) moral. Marriage ain't just about this man and this woman, but about something even bigger than them. (This is where we come in.) A good marriage here is for the improvement of oneself, not the significant other. None of us are perfect, and with a "helpmeet," one can (hopefully) become one's best self.  

This last perspective has the faith that we can become better people by wanting to put the other first. I do think that requires the trait of "willing to improve," which will loop us around back to factor (a). 

Brooks is the fan of the last one, obviously. 

2) "The Power of Altruism." Are humans selfish or selfless? Pessimists prefer the former, optimists the latter. Fascinatingly, if one expects people to behave selfishly, then they will: The Economic vs. Moral lens. 
Samuel Bowles provides a slew of examples in his book “The Moral Economy.” For example, six day care centers in Haifa, Israel, imposed a fine on parents who were late in picking up their kids at the end of the day. The share of parents who arrived late doubled. Before the fine, picking up their kids on time was an act of being considerate to the teachers. But after the fine, showing up to pick up their kids became an economic transaction. They felt less compunction to be kind.
Once money is on the table, courtesy goes out the window. "I thought I was being nice. But if you are going to make it about money, well, then, fine." I like helping out my siblings with babysitting (usually) because I like being helpful. Yet when one insulted me by proffering some cash, I frostily responded, "That's not my hourly rate." 

3) "Making Modern Toughness." Doesn't everyone seem more fragile nowadays? Instead of raising hardy children to deal with blazing sun and furious winds and pounding rains, kids are being fussed over and shielded in hothouses from all elements. 

Yet hardiness often resulted in toting "20-ton shields" (BrenĂ© term), where soft, fuzzy emotions were walled off. 
Perhaps it’s time to rethink toughness or at least detach it from hardness. Being emotionally resilient is not some defensive posture. It’s not having some armor surrounding you so that nothing can hurt you.
The people we admire for being resilient are not hard; they are ardent. They have a fervent commitment to some cause, some ideal or some relationship. That higher yearning enables them to withstand setbacks, pain and betrayal. . . 
People are much stronger than they think they are when in pursuit of their telos, their purpose for living. As Nietzsche put it, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
On a connective note, lend an ear to this shiur by Esther Wein

When we find a cause, then slights and setbacks loose their sting; we can be strong and sensitive.   

1 comment:

Daniel Saunders said...

Agreed that moral marriage should be linked to psychological. Who is going to want to improve for the sake of an unpleasant person? Much easier to sacrifice for the sake of a mentsch.