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Monday, June 2, 2014

David Brooks, "The Art of Focus": Hocus-Pocus

"If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull."

- W.C. Fields

A couple of years ago, in a New Yorker article entitled "The Obama Memos" (, Ryan Lizza wrote :

"On a frigid January evening in 2009, a week before his Inauguration, Barack Obama had dinner at the home of George Will, the Washington Post columnist, who had assembled a number of right-leaning journalists to meet the President-elect. Accepting such an invitation was a gesture on Obama’s part that signalled his desire to project an image of himself as a post-ideological politician, a Chicago Democrat eager to forge alliances with conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill. That week, Obama was still working on an Inaugural Address that would call for 'an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.'"

Ah yes, "an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics." Five years later, where did that take us? Among those attending the dinner was Richard Lowry, editor of the National Review, who, as noted by Lizza, "grabbed Obama’s hand and said softly, 'Sir, I’ll be praying for you.'" Obviously, Lowry has not prayed hard enough.

But more to the point, also at the dinner with "right-leaning" conservatives was David Brooks, whom Obama asked in jest, "What are you doing here?" In fact, Obama's observation was dead on balls accurate. Lord knows where on the political spectrum Brooks lies or where his mind is wandering. Brooks often seems out of focus.

And so, at a time when Obama is being eviscerated by both left (see: and right (see: for his petty West Point speech foisting worn out dogmas and replete with recriminations, Brooks brings us his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Art of Focus" ( After explaining how children are able to learn more effectively than adults, Brooks concludes his opinion piece by declaring:

"The information universe tempts you with mildly pleasant but ultimately numbing diversions. The only way to stay fully alive is to dive down to your obsessions six fathoms deep. Down there it’s possible to make progress toward fulfilling your terrifying longing, which is the experience that produces the joy."

Six fathoms deep I should seek my terrifying longing that produces joy? Indeed, the "stuff" that animates the cognitive processes of Times readers around the globe. Or as W.C. Fields declared in his immortal 1940 comedy "The Bank Dick," "Sounds like a bubble in a bathtub."

Perhaps, with a smidgen of luck, I can find an alternative "way to stay fully alive."

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