David Brooks and St. Augustine

Ross Douthat is not the only New York Times writer to hit upon some very Catholic themes. David Brooks's recent column turns to St. Augustine to reflect upon the path to personal knowledge:

The highest rung on the stairway to understanding is intimacy. Our master-teacher here is Augustine. As he aged, Augustine came to reject those who thought they could understand others from some detached objective stance.

Advertisement

He came to believe that it take selfless love to truly know another person. Love is a form of knowing and being known. Affection motivates you to want to see everything about another. Empathy opens you up to absorb the good and the bad. Love impels you not just to observe, but to seek union — to think as another thinks and feel as another feels.

There is a tendency now, especially for those of us in the more affluent classes, to want to use education to make life more predictable, to seek control as the essential good, to emphasize data that masks the remorseless unpredictability of individual lives. But people engaged in direct contact with problems like teenage pregnancy are cured of those linear illusions. Those of us who work with data and for newspapers probably should be continually reminding ourselves to bow down before the knowledge of participation, to defer to the highest form of understanding, which is held by those who walk alongside others every day, who know the first names, who know the smells and fears.

 

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
David Pasinski
3 years 5 months ago
I placed David Brooks column on our refrigerator and read it to my older teens. He is the conservative this liberal most respects and that column is a classic. Thank you, David!
Matt Emerson
3 years 4 months ago

David, thanks for reading and reply. It's a good column indeed!

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Pope Francis prayed for the victims of a terrorist attack in Mogadishu, Somalia, that left hundreds dead and countless wounded in one of the deadliest attacks in the country's history.
Jon Rou/Loyola Marymount
Catholics are called to act and to equip ourselves with truth-telling tools to transform the polemics of immigration into a grace-filled response to human suffering.
Hong Kong residents hold a banner that reads: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” The Occupy Central movement was initiated as an effort to force the Hong Kong and Chinese governments to allow true democracy in the city. (CNS photo/Francis Wong)
“I believe it’s essential for some people to go to jail for the sake of democracy. It will in the end strengthen the movement.”
Verna YuOctober 17, 2017
In a zombie world, the good Samaritan would be toast.
Patrick GallagherOctober 17, 2017