We live, as Sacks writes, in a century that “has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning.” The secular substitutes for religion — nationalism, racism and political ideology — have all led to disaster. So many flock to religion, sometimes — especially within Islam — to extremist forms.
I tried but failed to ward off the second bottle of champagne. I was sitting in my room at the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet, on the phone with a friend. The hotel staff had already brought me chocolates and Turkish delight to welcome me. They’d put bookmarks in the books I’d left on the desk. They’d replaced my bathmat midday because I’d gotten the first one wet. They’d arranged my notes for this article in clean little stacks. There was already one ice-bucketed bottle of champagne on the dining room table when the door chime rang.
The pathological dualist can’t reconcile his humiliated place in the world with his own moral superiority.
They treated the crew as friends and equals and not as staff. Nobody was trying to prove they were better informed or more sophisticated than anybody else. There were times, in fact, when I almost wished there had been a little more pretense and a little more intellectual and spiritual ambition.
Justice demands respect of the other. It plays on the collective memory of people who are in covenantal communities: Your people, too, were once vulnerable strangers in a strange land.
The command is not just to be empathetic toward strangers, which is fragile. The command is to pursue sanctification, which involves struggle and sometimes conquering your selfish instincts...
I’m generally a frenetic traveler, but there were moments when I was frustrated we couldn’t stop for even three minutes to really look at what we were seeing. There were several moments when I was frustrated at how little time was set aside for solitary contemplation.
Moreover, God frequently appears where he is least expected — in the voice of the stranger — reminding us that God transcends the particulars of our attachments.
The people on this trip loved the experience. They were very satisfied customers. But they did have moments of exhaustion. Multiple bucket list items per day — the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul? Check. The main market in Marrakesh? Check! When I asked the guests what their favorite stop was, a plurality said the Maldives, where they got a chance to sit, pause and enjoy the beaches.
It may seem strange that in this century of technology, peace will be found within these ancient texts. But as Sacks points out, Abraham had no empire, no miracles and no army — just a different example of how to believe, think and live.
But sometimes money allows you to see too many things, too quickly. Sometimes if you seize all the opportunities your money affords, you may end up skimming over life and nothing is deep enough to leave a mark....And, yet, I must confess, other sweet small moments came when I just said what the heck and enjoyed the self-indulgence. The caviar in Russia was really nice. So was the beautiful hotel pool in Morocco, the sweet staff at every stop and the little cubes of Turkish delight. And yes, over the course of the three days at the Four Seasons in Istanbul, I did drink both bottles of champagne.Of course, we all have a responsibility to reduce inequality in our society. But maybe not every day.
Individuals who are not vituperative, foul-mouthed bloggers to whom the NYT gives the back of its hand attracted the attention of the Times' Public Editor long enough to wrangle an explanation of who, exactly, paid for the already-wildly-overcompensated David Brooks' wildly expensive vacation, which Mr. Brooks somehow squeezed in between his other vacations, "book leaves" and book-tour speaking engagements. Once again, it turns out that the New York Times footed the bill for Mr. Brooks to hang out with globe-trotting millionaires long enough for him to piously leave the gun but smugly take the canoli:
Many readers wanted to know the arrangements behind David Brooks’s participation on part of a $120,000 luxury trip, which he wrote about for T: The New York Times Style Magazine. Many on Twitter and elsewhere charged that this must be a junket — a free trip for a journalist, which is, of course, an ethical no-no. (Others objected in strong terms to the article’s concept, its tone, and the The Times’s relative wisdom of spending a large sum of money for this purpose.) The Times’s standards editor, Philip B. Corbett, assured me late Friday that the company had paid for the portion of that trip for which Mr. Brooks was present. (Yes, that covered both bottles of champagne.) A sentence in the article making the arrangement clear to readers would have been a good idea.
James Warren suggests that as long as the Public Editor of the NYT is feeling all disclose-y, perhaps she could also talk about the fact that the already wildly-overcompensated Mr. Brooks also routinely picks up an additional $40K here and $60K there, rhapsodizing for an hour or so to audiences of America's Most Privileged People about the importance of humility (emphasis added):
...But while the Times is in disclosure mode, this question: Why doesn't the paper routinely tell readers about the outside paid speaking gigs of Brooks and others? The Times has traditionally made a distinction (arguably without a difference) between the paid speaking rules for newsroom personnel, who report to the editor, and those of op-ed and editorial writers, who are under the aegis of the publisher and generally free as a bird. That's folly. A single luncheon or dinner appearances can bring as much as some journalists earn in a year, with the likes of Brooks and Tom Friedman able to pick up gigs for anywhere from $30,000 to $75,000. Even assuming their ethical rectitude, shouldn't readers know about even the hint of potential conflict suggested by the plush oratorical buckraking?
In case you haven't figured it out by now, the most sacred of David Brooks' "Holy Texts" have always borne faces of dead presidents and come wrapped in American Bankers Association compliant currency straps.
And anyone who thinks otherwise deserves what they get.