Thursday, October 15, 2020

Sick Souls, Healthy Minds (How William James Can Save Your Life)

The NYT review is adequate. What strikes me about this book and the other Kaag book I've read recently is the great length that thinkers at the end of the 19th century were going to in order to try their best to survive in a world where they firmly believed that intellectuals were required to believe there was no God -- or eternity. As the title indicates, they were still somewhat desperately clinging to the idea of a "soul". 

Perhaps the reason James remains beloved by so many readers more than a century after his death is that his pragmatism often shaded into self-help. He believed in the power of positive thinking, in bucking up; he counseled action, and not just philosophizing, in the face of uncertainty; he may have even, from time to time, turned his frown upside down. But he expressed all of his (and our) struggles and their potential solutions in the smartest possible ways, and never pretended that a revised mood was a settled state of affairs. He knew that living is a continual process, and that perhaps the best we can hope for is just enough therapy to make it to the next crisis.

Abandon God, and with him the foundation of anything beyond the dogma of "change", and the "best" to be hoped for is "just enough therapy to make it to the next crisis".  Somehow, daily devotions and weekly/regular Holy Communion sound rather appealing in contrast. 

The undercurrent of my life up to retirement was "getting through it in anticipation of ...". You know -- "when I graduate from college", "when I get a good job", "when I get married" ... etc, etc. Never considering that realizing that I was living in The Kingdom of God NOW! I was already "there", having died to this world in Baptism, and now haltingly taking infant steps into my eternity with Christ. 

So I'm certain this book will not eternally "save your life", and may even proffer false palliative comfort preventing you from allowing Christ to TRULY save you in this life and the next. However, it is a nice short somewhat fluffy intro to Pragmatism. 

No comments:

Post a Comment