(WSJ) Eric Ormsby on Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly's new book “All Things Shining”

The polytheistic approach is rich in the experience of what they call “whooshing up.” You won’t find this term is dictionaries of philosophy (though the authors equate it, somewhat improbably, with “physis,” the Greek term for “nature”). Whooshing up is the sensation we enjoy at a sporting event when the crowd rises to its feet as one to register a communal sense of awe and admiration before some astonishing athletic feat.

Whooshing up is communal, it is public and it is shared; and so, according to the authors, it is close to the kinds of sensations the ancient Greeks admired and cultivated. Throughout the book, such great athletes as Bill Bradley, Lou Gehrig and Roger Federer are invoked as supreme examples of such shining, almost instinctive, grace. Their greatness lies not solely in their skill, the authors argue, but in their ability to let some outside force course through them, just as the heroes of old were exquisitely attuned to the power of a god working through their bodies.

Messrs. Dreyfus and Kelly acknowledge that this isn’t a sufficient foundation for a new belief; nor is it an adequate remedy for nihilism. After all, however long the whooshing up lasts, it is inevitably brief. Worse still, it is just the sort of sensation cultivated at political rallies. Hitler and Mussolini were great whoosher- uppers. Against this the authors recommend an approach they call “meta-poiesis,” a kind of restraint drawing on disciplined skill, artistry and reverence for the natural world. Here they become a bit entangled in their own over-ingenious categories. What makes their case finally compelling is their insistence on the importance of openness, on attentiveness to the given moment, on what they call “a fully embodied, this-worldly kind of sacred.”

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, Books, History, Philosophy, Religion & Culture

3 comments on “(WSJ) Eric Ormsby on Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly's new book “All Things Shining”

  1. DonGander says:

    I remember going to my very first high school pep rally. I had never heard of such a thing and I was skeptical. It was required of all students to attend so I was even more skeptical. I remember sitting way off in the corner of the gymnasium and thinking about all the other great rallies in history; like the ones in Berlin in the 1930s.

    It’s not that I didn’t like my school nor was there a failure of my sentimental attachment to the winning ways of my school’s sports teams, it was just the expectation that all the students would be expected to have this ecstatic experience to hype a game. I thought it preparation of my schoolmates minds for some coming mass-following idiocy. I had no premonitions about an Obama-figure but I guess I do wonder if the preparation is why so many follow an empty suit.

    But now to the point of the article; Doesn’t it seem like our culture has been some way primed for such idiocy as found in the article?


  2. fatherhoss says:

    I have been saying for years that our age is more like Corinth circa 90 AD than it is like USA circa 1950 AD.
    Perhaps we (The Church) should promote study of this book, after all we know that the Gospel beats the polythiests. I am still not sure we are winning against the X-Box and the NFL.

  3. Randy Hoover-Dempsey says:

    It is easy to see our enemy as the “empty suit” but more difficult to recognize the voice of the mob when it is singing a tune we love.