“Who are we? We are like spiritual Grand Central stations.”
(David Brooks, The Social Animal, Kindle Electronic Edition: Location 167)
In his book “Social Animal: The hidden sources if love, character, and achievement“, New York times political columnist David Brooks dedicates himself to the question what drives individual behavior and decision making?What is life about? Brooks writes, that in the last years he felt, as if a shift took place. Those questions are not only to be answered by theology and philosophy anymore but more through the study of the mind, by applying neuroscience, behavioral science, sociology and psychology.
His research depends on an understanding of “the inner mind”, which he describes as the unconscious realm of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, genetic predispositions, character traits and social norms.
Through fictional Americans contemporary characters Erica and Herold Brooks explains the way our emotional personality changes. Brooks follows Harold and Erica from childhood to retirement, and describes the other people they interact with each other.
Brooks has three big points:
1. Brooks disapproves of the exaggeration of the human consciousness: “While the conscious mind writes the autobiography of the human species, the unconscious mind, does most of the work.”
2. Emotions are in the center of human thinking.
3. Humans are not primarily self-contained individuals. They are social animals, not rational animals, who emerge out of relationships.
“In fact, we are separated from the other animals because we have phenomenal social skills that enable us to teach, learn, sympathize, emote and build cultures, institutions, and the complex mental scaffolding of civilizations. “We are junctions where millions of sensations, emotions, and signals interpenetrate every second. We are communication centers, and through some process we are not close to understanding, we have the ability to partially govern this traffic – to shift attention from one thing to another, to choose and commit. We become fully ourselves only through the ever-richening interplay of our networks. We seek, more than anything else, to establish deeper and more complete connections.” (David Brooks, The Social Animal, Kindle Electronic Edition: Location 167)
Brooks idea of the social animal is a concept of a network, run by social relationships. When I read the book, I wondered how this idea fits with the theological topos of community, which is given by Christ.
While Brooks traces community back to social networks and an awareness of the concious and unconcious, the theological answer would be the community, which in Christ gives (like in Joh 15) or the community gathered in the Holy spirit (like in Acts).
How can an awareness of the different kind of community, that the bible speaks about, be connected with Brooks thought on networks and relationsships?
What can be the extra influence of Brooks concept for our churches?