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The Summoned Life as explained by David Brooks in his NYT column

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WASHINGTON - MARCH 30:   David Brooks of the N...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

David Brooks has a talent for engaging us in a second look at ourselves and how we think about ourselves. He isn’t ever the profound thinker but he is ever the “summoner” in his own way.

Here is how he explains his thoughts about this way of seeing one’s life:

The second way of thinking about your life might be called the Summoned Life. This mode of thinking starts from an entirely different perspective. Life isn’t a project to be completed; it is an unknowable landscape to be explored.


any person — can’t see into the future to know what wars, loves, diseases and chances may loom. She/he may know concepts, like parenthood or old age, but she/he doesn’t really understand their meanings until … engaged in them.


the most important features of the human landscape are commitments that precede choice — commitments to family, nation, faith or some cause. These commitments defy the logic of cost and benefit, investment and return.

The person leading the Summoned Life emphasizes the context, and asks, “What are my circumstances asking me to do?”

That seems to describe very well how I seem to view my own life and its circumstances, past and present. Oh, I haven’t been the strongest I could have been on commitment, but I seem to be doing better since about 2004.

I just found a slightly  different take on this notion:

The Mandarin responds, “A life that is planned is a closed life, my friend. It can be endured perhaps. But it cannot be lived.”

It made me think of how often I limit myself by planning. At this time of year I often make New Year’s resolutions with a set of goals and intentions for the year—all with a view towards having an “ideal life” where everything was perfect.

But a lived life isn’t perfect, it’s just lived one day, week, month and year at a time!




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Written by BobG in Dalian & Vancouver

2010/08/02 at 23:59

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