There may be parts of the culture where this destabilizing force [ of "the death of god"] is not felt. The Times’s David Brooks argued recently for example, in a column discussing Jonathan Franzen’s novel “Freedom,” that Franzen’s depiction of America as a society of lost and fumbling souls tells us “more about America’s literary culture than about America itself.” The suburban life full of “quiet desperation,” according to Brooks, is a literary trope that has taken on a life of its own. It fails to recognize the happiness, and even fulfillment, that is found in the everyday engagements with religion, work, ethnic heritage, military service and any of the other pursuits in life that are “potentially lofty and ennobling”.
There is something right about Brooks’s observation, but he leaves the crucial question unasked. Has Brooks’s happy, suburban life revealed a new kind of contentment, a happiness that is possible even after the death of God? Or is the happy suburban world Brooks describes simply self-deceived in its happiness, failing to face up to the effects of the destabilizing force that Franzen and his literary compatriots feel? I won’t pretend to claim which of these options actually prevails in the suburbs today, but let me try at least to lay them out.
It is a pity folks like Kelly - who should know better - marginalize the Buddhist concept of sunyata here by posing false dichotomy between indecisive, hopeless "nihilism" and commitment to pastimes that in themselves are void at their core.
2. I can't imagine the mindset of Ross Douthat. I just can't.