Best Of The Web
“Any human identity is made up in part of beliefs about how to live—what is admirable, worthwhile, shameful, precious. These are not abstract opinions, but are better understood as parts of who we are, distinctions that guide us through the world as surely as a sense of up and down or near and far. And they are full of consequences. We decide every hour which chances are worth taking, which attachments worth making, which tedious tasks are worth the reward. The questions add up: What shall I do with this hour, this morning, and with what they amount to, my one life? What shall we do together?
Making our choices count is, however, far from straightforward, and this is the subject of Martin Hägglund’s book This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom. Hägglund, who teaches literature at Yale, aims to give fresh philosophical and political vitality to a longstanding question. He argues that to live well requires two things: We need to face our choices with clarity, and we need the power to make choices that matter. He makes a forceful case that religion keeps believers from confronting their responsibility for the meaning of their own lives, by displacing ultimate questions to a higher plane. Meanwhile, capitalism denies us the power to make important choices, since we are each to varying degrees compelled to spend our time on things that we do not choose and that don’t carry meaning for us.
Ranging from discussions of the nature of eternity to arguments about who should control the means of production, Hägglund puts forward a single, sustained picture of the situation we all face. To free ourselves spiritually, he proposes that we adopt what he calls “secular faith”: a commitment to our finite lives and fragile loves as the sole site of what matters, the setting for all the stakes of existence. Achieving material freedom is a more logistically complex project. The only social order compatible with spiritual freedom, Hägglund believes, is democratic socialism. Only when return on investment ceases to be the measure of value can the polity decide for itself what counts as valuable, what kind of activity should be rewarded and cultivated.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"The likely successor to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Boris Johnson, has plans to subsume the government department overseeing development aid into the foreign office, effectively eliminating it. That will destroy a post-Brexit United..."
"Gerard Baker, editor-at-large at the Wall Street Journal (no reflexively anti-Trump publication) recently wrote a piece decrying Donald Trump and his foreign policy as a fount of erratic unpredictability. This essay will give the counter view...."
"On Wednesday, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar announced that she will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories in the coming weeks. Omar will be accompanied by Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The two freshman congresswomen have become a focal point of..."
"Netflix may have lost US subscribers for the first time since it began making its own shows, but that didn't stop the streaming giant from dropping new figures about how many people are sucked into its Adam Sandler vortex. (Spoiler: More than..."
"A few years ago, Amy Balliett, CEO of a Seattle-based design and marketing firm, noticed that as the work week slogged on, her employees’ energy and productivity wilted. “That would slump to such an extent that the same task on Monday would..."
"Over the last few days the #faceappchallenge has taken over social media. This “challenge” involves downloading a selfie-editing tool called FaceApp and using one of its filters to digitally age your face. You then post the photo of your wizened..."
"Although there are plenty of irrational aspects to life in modern America, few rival the odd fixation on lawns. Fertilizing, mowing, watering — these are all-American activities that, on their face, seem reasonable enough. But to spend hundreds..."
"Can a book change the way we think? I don’t mean that in the sense of a reader’s opinion or ideology shifting—of course the right literary work can do that. But can a book rewire the brain itself, literally changing the way one particular mind..."
"It’s our job to let kids know we see and hear them, but we’re not necessarily going to solve siblings’ conflicts for them (or else they never get the practice). When squabbles start, imagine you’re a sportscaster and describe what you see in..."
"Magali Trejo-Martinez, a 22-year-old living in Salem, Oregon, recently went on a date that was rather uninspiring. “I had dinner, had a couple margaritas, and then went home,” is how she recapped the evening. This outcome wasn’t entirely..."
"The first lunar landing was many things — a D-Day-like feat of planning and logistics, a testament to the power of man's will, an ostensible propaganda coup for NATO. It was also, I think, one of the most misunderstood events in the history of..."
"THE FIRST TIME Bernie Sanders ran for president, he didn’t talk much about being Jewish. In fact, he didn’t talk much about himself at all. His 2016 primary campaign, like his whole political career, was relentlessly focused on one topic: income..."