The Social Animal: Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement by David Brooks according to the author himself, “is an attempt to integrate science and psychology with sociology, politics, cultural commentary, and the literature of success”. Whether he succeeded in this attempt, it is hard to tell; but he certainly has tried hard and the book turns out to be informative. Harold and Erica, two characters around whom the story is woven is about how success happens. Brooks demonstrates through the shaping of these two fictional characters that most of what takes place in the conscious, visible and tangible world of people’s social interaction is the result of what is created and carried out by the unconscious mind.
Brooks would have done well if somewhere in the whole story a dream had been included. In all the conversation about the unconscious mind, why isn’t there any mention of dreams; don’t they play a part in the functioning of the unconscious mind? Aren’t dreams ‘a peek into the unconscious thoughts of humans’? I bring this up for two reasons: first, even though I don’t rely on them, in many instances dreams have been helpful to me in decision making. The other reason for this question is related to my ministry. There are many instances where individuals have become open and receptive to Christ as a result of dreams. Should this reality be brushed aside as something to do with the supernatural and therefore inconsequential to academia, or is it a subject that does require due recognition and further study in the light or recent discoveries of the mind? I am quite certain that such studies are going on. Dreams are a very integral part of quite a few Biblical narratives especially those related to the Advent. We cannot afford to either dismiss them or withdraw from them easily.
Related to the above discussion, I was also drawn to two suggestive words and concepts in the book. One is ‘Meitis’ originating from Greek mythology describing ‘wisdom’ and ‘skill’ which Brooks draws out as more or less an intuitive ability that humans develop over a period of time in their lives through conscious observation, experiences and repeated action which is absorbed and processed by the unconscious mind. This intuitive acumen leads to right choices and right decisions without having to exercise the conscious logical process of thought at certain times and situations: “a state of wisdom that emerges from the conversation between Level 1 (the unconscious mind) and Level 2 (the conscious mind) (Brooks 2012, 249).” The following verses come to mind: “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him (Jam 1:4, 5)”. I am also reminded that Solomon was granted wisdom from God (I Ki 3:12). I believe that such wisdom and discernment is a quality of leadership that can be consciously pursued.
The second word is ‘limerence’ which in this context is explained as ‘the yearning for harmony’ that can manifest itself in either simple or sometimes in unusual ways (Brooks 2012, 208). The desire for ‘limerence’ can draw people instinctively to the familiar, to seek perfection and contributes to intellectual growth. “The desire for limerence is at its most profound during those transcendent moments when people feel themselves fused with nature and with God, when the soul lifts up and a feeling of oneness with the universe pervades their being” (Brooks 2012, 209).
Paul on several occasions admonishes his readers to ‘live in harmony’. Questions: what messages do these words and concepts hold for me as a Christian leader? How can they be conveyed to my people?
Beckett, Andy. The Guardian. June 1, 011. http://www.theguardian.com/
Wbooks/2011/jun/01/social-animal-david-brooks-review (accessed January 30, 2014).
Brooks, David. The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love,
Character, and Achievement. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2012.