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The Founding Virtues and the Stuff of Life
Old 03-11-2012, 10:04 AM   #1
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The Founding Virtues and the Stuff of Life

Interesting book about how culture in the US has changed over the past 50 years, Coming Apart by Charles Murray. Now I want to read Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks. Two of the notable sections in Coming Apart IMO...YMMV
Once you start to think through the kinds of accomplishments that do lead people to reach old age satisfied with who they have been and what they have done, you will find (I propose) that the accomplishments you have in mind have three things in common. First, the source of satisfaction involves something important. We can get pleasure from trivial things, but pleasure is different from deep satisfaction. Second, the source of the satisfaction has involved effort, probably over an extended period of time. The cliché “nothing worth having comes easily” is true. Third, some level of personal responsibility for the outcome is essential. In the case of events close to home, you have to be able to say, “If it hadn’t been for me, this good thing wouldn’t have come about as it did.”

There aren’t many activities in life that satisfy the three requirements of importance, effort, and responsibility. Having been a good parent qualifies. Being part of a good marriage qualifies. Having done your job well qualifies. Having been a good neighbor and good friend to those whose lives intersected with yours qualifies. But what else?

Let me put it formally: If we ask what are the domains through which human beings achieve deep satisfaction in life --- achieve happiness --- the answer is that there are just four: family, vocation, community, and faith, with these provisos: Community can embrace people who are scattered geographically. Vocation can include avocations or causes.

It is not necessary for any individual to make use of all four domains, nor do I array them in a hierarchy. I merely assert that these four are all there are. The stuff of life occurs within those four domains. Charles Murray in Coming Apart
The American Constitution is remarkable for its simplicity; but it can only suffice a people habitually correct in their actions, and would be utterly inadequate to the wants of a different nation. Change the domestic habits of the Americans, their religious devotion, and their high respect for morality, and it will not be necessary to change a single letter of the constitution in order to vary the whole form of government. Francis Grund 1837

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Old 03-11-2012, 12:59 PM   #2
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I haven't read Coming Apart, but I know it's getting a lot of press. I've seen Murray in TV interviews.

The bit you posted presents a very narrow view of satisfaction and accomplishment, IMO. Many, many things worth having come easily. We just need to become aware of them.

And if I claim to be a wise man, it surely means that I don't know.
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Old 03-11-2012, 01:37 PM   #3
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I agree with his premise. Interestingly, it is almost perfectly aligned with the Roman Stoics-Seneca, Marcs Aurelius, et al. Right now I am reading a an excellent book by Seneca-On the Shortness of Life. The title is somewhat misleading, the theme is that life is long if you know how to use it.

I have Murray's book on reserve at SPL- but there are about 150 people ahead of me.

Charles Murray is hated by the PC Police, usually a good recommendation in itself.

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Old 03-11-2012, 01:48 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Midpack View Post
Interesting book about how culture in the US has changed over the past 50 years, Coming Apart by Charles Murray. Now I want to read Bobos in Paradise by David Brooks. Two of the notable sections in Coming Apart IMO...YMMV
Bobo was an interesting but not a great book, Brooks is a fine writer, but I was somewhat skeptical of some of his claims.

I thoroughly enjoyed Murray's the Bell Curve, so it is on my Amazon Wishlist.
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