A wide-ranging look at the loss of meaning in the West, and a gripping guide for how to retrieve it.
The Ancient Greeks believed that our actions, at their best, were not completely under our control, but that we worked in concert with the world around us, much as an athlete performs when he’s in the “zone.” The athlete—or any master of his craft—in this state, makes choices that have little to do with thinking and everything to do with his skill and his environment. He is so intensely connected to what’s around him that he can’t make a “wrong” choice. Many people leading secular lives are hungry for meaning. An unrelenting flow of choices confronts us at nearly every moment of our lives, but on what basis do we make these decisions? How can we tell what’s irrelevant and what’s important? Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly explain that a secular life charged with meaning is in our reach. It is achieved by a passionate, skillful engagement with people, events, and the wonders present in the most ordinary days that Western culture abandoned long ago. Dreyfus and Kelly use some of the greatest works of the Western Canon to trace the way in which denizens of Western culture lost this passionate engagement to their surroundings and to show us how to get it back. Taking us on a journey from the wonder and openness of Homer’s polytheistic world to the monotheism of Dante to the nihilism of Kant, to the pantheism of Melville and finally to the spiritual difficulties of the world evoked by modern authors such as David Foster Wallace and Elizabeth Gilbert, this book will change the way we understand our culture, our history, our sacred practices, and ourselves and offer a new-and very old-way to celebrate a secular existence.