All Things Shining

All Things Shining

Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in A Secular Age

Book - 2011
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A guide for secular readers cites classic works of literature to illustrate how to achieve passionate, skillful engagement with others for a greater sense of purpose.
Publisher: New York : Free Press, c2011.
Edition: 1st Free Press hardcover ed.
ISBN: 9781416596165
141659616X
9781416596158
1416596151
Characteristics: xi, 254 p. ;,22 cm.
Additional Contributors: Kelly, Sean (Sean D.)

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AL_ANNAL Aug 23, 2017

A review of Western literary classics (Homer, Aeschylus, Dante, Descartes, Kant, Melville, David Foster Wallace) as a way to understand what gave life meaning at different periods of time. The final chapter offers the authors' suggestions for creating meaning in the 21st century.

b
brotagonist
Jun 12, 2017

I agree with the other reviewer that this book "does not deliver on its subtitle." Is contemporary life really as nihilistic as the authors propose? I am very well read, but I have never heard of DF Wallace. His gloomy and empty outlook does not describe the culture and world in which I live. Next, we travel back to the ancient Greeks and take a journey through selected writers to Martin Luther and the Enlightenment. We arrive at lives of self-directed meaning and purpose. Where else would we wish to be? To be bound to living lives of custom and role defined by "a God-given hierarchy of ordered, worldly meanings outside the individual" is unthinkable. I was fascinated by the discussion of the great cultural reconfigurations in understanding of ourselves, made possible by both Jesus and René Descartes. Likewise, I was dismayed by the authors' complete dismissal of God in our lives. They are intent on a vague sort of polytheism as an antidote to their senses of emptiness. What of the Saints—and other great mortals, too—and their lives of inspiration as a quasi-polytheist view? Next, we embark on a lengthy chapter on Melville's Moby Dick. Are the authors suggesting that we have arrived at nothingness as a sort of Devil worship? Must they procede without the slightest grateful nod to God for our lives of meaning and joy? To see is to experience. And so the authors wrap up with an unusual non-Western solution: Zen in all but name. They propose that we rekindle the meaning in life through a mindful attention to everyday living and an appreciation of beauty through skill and craft. This is very charming, but it is not a profound answer from the Western Classics that began our quest.

r
rca8
Mar 25, 2016

A shallow, crude book that does not deliver on its subtitle. At one point the authors write: "There is no essential difference, really, in how it feels to rise as one in joy to sing the praises of the Lord, or to rise in one in joy to sing the praises of the Hail Mary Pass, the Angels, the Saints, the Friars, or the Demon Deacons." Sure. For more, Google the review by Garry Wills in the New York Review of Books.

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