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Thursday, March 20, 2014

David Brooks, "Going Home Again": People Are Like Onions II

"Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers."

- Shrek, "Shrek" (2001)

Exactly one week ago, as Putin massed troops along Russia's border with the Ukraine and Obama met this challenge with flaccid paralysis (see Charles Krauthammer's "Obama’s pathetic response to Putin’s invasion of Crimea" (, David Brooks provided us with reassurance concerning the substance of human nature in a New York Times op-ed entitled "The Deepest Self" ( . Brooks wrote:

"In fact, while we are animals, we have much higher opportunities. While we start with and are influenced by evolutionary forces, people also have the chance to make themselves deep in a way not explicable in strictly evolutionary terms.

So much of what we call depth is built through freely chosen suffering. People make commitments — to a nation, faith, calling or loved ones — and endure the sacrifices those commitments demand. Often this depth is built by fighting against natural evolutionary predispositions."

My interpretation at the time of the Brooks opinion piece (

"People - even people like Putin - are like onions. They have layers built through suffering around or even against their natural cores."

Well today, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "Going Home Again" (, after observing how Sting returned to his childhood past in the north of England to regain his musical creativity, Brooks concludes (my emphasis in red):

"Sting’s talk [at this year’s TED conference] was a reminder to go forward with a backward glance, to go one layer down into self and then after self-confrontation, to leap forward out of self. History is filled with revivals, led by people who were reinvigorated for the future by a reckoning with the past."

You see, I was right one week ago. People are like onions. They have layers. But must we always return to the past to reclaim creativity? Maybe.

Consider what might have happened differently if Obama had only looked to the past before undertaking, together with Hillary, the "historic" reset of relations with Russia and promising "flexibility" in his second term to that ogre Putin, who also has layers . . .

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