The following article is an articulation of an experience I commonly have, encountering the vast outpouring of intellect in our society:
I often try to conceive of the fullness of the life experience of the billion or so people who live wealthy, American-style lives: people who see a great portion of the globe, read (and write) books, keep websites, listen to and make music, see movies, and the like. I try to focus on it when I feel the isolation and loneliness which is the main occupational hazard of being one of these people. You often feel that no one else really cares for the things you do, that the world is dead to all but money and status.
And then your life leads you into some new corner of this world, and you realize just how astonishingly vast and complex our society is. We feel lonely because we see so little from our keyholes.
Recently I encountered the works of Richard Rohr and his “male spirituality.” A mere peak in the door disclosed dozens of books I could read, devotees all over the world, conferences, retreats, reunions, the like – a whole world unto itself.
Following the thread brought me to a system of personality analysis called the Enneagram, which operates from a theory that people tend to have one root sin and that these sins have a somewhat discernible pattern of interaction. Arcane stuff – they say it was used by the Sufis. Well, there are more books written about the Enneagram than you could read in a lifetime. There are retreats, conferences, institutes. In fact, one such place, the Enneagram Institute, is located here in the Catskills, not far from my cabin.
Moving further brought me to Jungian analysis, with a Christian bent, especially the writings of Helen Luke. Well, she is a whole world unto herself, with dozens of books I could read. One of the publishers dedicated to her is Parabola, which is located on Fifth Avenue. And of course in New York there is the C.G. Jung institute, which also carries works of hers. And the quotations she offers from Jung are often astonishingly acute. I imagine I could spend a lifetime reading Jung too.
And you find such richness wherever you look. I hear there has been more Dante scholarship in the last twenty years than in all the previous seven hundred. The same for Homer, Vergil, Shakespeare, Milton, and almost every other scholarly pursuit. It dwarfs the breadth of any individual life. All you can do is find a way to be linked into it and wonder.