Sean Dorrance Kelly

Aired:  02/02/11 Views: 31,206

Sean Dorrance Kelly believes that we've lost the notion of what's sacred in our existence. (6:48)

( CHEERS AND APPLAUSE ).

>> Stephen: WELCOME BACK,

EVERYBODY.

MY GUEST TONIGHT IS A HARVARD

PHILOSOPHY PROFESSOR WHO HAS A

NEW BOOK ABOUT THE CLASSICS.

I'M NOT ACTUALLY GOING TO LISTEN

TO HIM.

I'M JUST GOING TO PICK UP THE "

"CLIFF NOTES" LATER.

PLEASE WELCOME SEAN KELLY!

( CHEERS AND APPLAUSE )

HEY!

MR. KELLY, THANKS SO MUCH FOR

COMING ON.

>> MY PLEASURE.

>> Stephen: LET'S GET THE

C.V. OUT HERE.

YOU'RE HEAD OF THE PHILOSOPHY

DEPARTMENT AT HARVARD

UNIVERSITY; IS THAT CORRECT?

>> YES.

>> Stephen: YOU HAVE A BOOK

CALLED "ALL THINGS SHINING--

READING THE WESTERN CLASSICS TO

FIND MEANING IN A SECULAR AGE."

FIRST QUESTION, WHAT?

( LAUGHTER )

MY FOLLOW-UP?

WHY?

WHY CAN'T-- WE HAVE MEANING IN

OUR LIVES, DON'T WE?

>> WELL, THAT'S A GOOD QUESTION.

I THINK THAT OUR CULTURE IS SORT

OF SPECIAL.

MY COAUTHOR AND I-- I SHOULD SAY

I'VE COWRITTEN THE BOOK WITH

HUBERT DREYFUSS.

>>

>> Stephen: HE'S NOT HERE

THOUGH.

>> HE'S NOT HERE

( LAUGHTER )

WE THINK, AND A LOT OF PEOPLE

THINK THIS-- THAT OUR AGE IS

SORT OF SPECIAL.

IT'S HARD FOR PEOPLE TO FIND

SMINGZ THAT MATTER IN THEIR

LIVES.

AND THAT MAKES OUR AGE DIFFERENT

FROM A LOT OF THE AGES--

>> Stephen: PEOPLE HAVE SO

MANY THINGS THAT MATTER IN THEIR

LIVES.

I MEAN, I-- I, FOR INSTANCE,

AM-- I'M GETTING A PAYCHECK.

FOR INTERVIEWING RIGHT NOW, AND

THAT MAKES MY LIFE RICH WITH

MEANING.

( LAUGHTER )

WHAT-- WHAT MEANING HAVE WE

LOST?

>> WHAT WE THINK IS WE'VE LOST

THE NOTION OF WHAT'S SACRED IN

OUR EXISTENCE, AND WHAT'S SACRED

IS THE 19th CENTURY GERMAN.

PHILOSOPHER SAID WHAT'S SACRED

IN A CULTURE IS WHATEVER IT IS

YOU CAN'T LAUGH AT, YOU'RE NOT

ALLOWED TO LAUGH AT.

>> Stephen: THEN EVERYTHING

IS SACRED.

I DON'T BELIEVE LAUGHTER HELPS

AT ALL.

I MEAN, SOME PEOPLE HAVE SACRED

IN THEIR LIVES.

I'M A CATHOLIC.

THE SEVEN SACRAMENT ARE SACRED

TO ME.

>> THAT'S RIGHT.

WHAT WE THINK IS ALTHOUGH IT'S

TRUE THAT SOME INDIVIDUALS IN

THE CULTURE HAVE A RELIGIOUS

BELIEF THAT ALLOWS THEM TO

EXPERIENCE THINGS AS MATTERING

TO THEM, THEIR RELIGIOUS BELIEFS

DON'T PLAY THE SAME ROLE FOR

THEM THAT THEY USED TO IN THE

PAST.

>> Stephen: MEANING THAT YOU

JUST DON'T THINK BECAUSE YOU'RE

AN IVORY TOWER LIBERAL?

YOU'RE IN THE TOWER ON TOP OF

THE TOWER.

MAYBE YOU AND YOUR BUDDIES JUST

HAVE, YOU KNOW, ARE EMPTY SHELLS

BECAUSE YOU LIVE IN ACADEMIA.

BUT THE AVERAGE JOE ON THE

STREET STILL SEARCHES, STILL

FEELS PAIN, AND HE FINDS MEANING

THROUGH JUST CHUGGING ON TO THE

NEXT CHUGGING OF THE BIG FLATS.

YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?

THAT'S WHERE MEANING COMES

FROM-- KEEP TO KEEPING ON.

TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS.

>> SO SOME MEANING COMES FROM

BEER.

BUT WHAT'S DIFFERENT BETWEEN OUR

AGE AND ALL THE AGES BEFORE US

IS THERE IS AN AGREEMENT IN THE

CULTURE ABOUT WHAT THE RELIGIOUS

BELIEFS ARE THAT GROUND OUR

MEANING IN OUR LIVES.

>> Stephen: I DON'T KNOW IF

THIS COMES IN YOUR BOOK, BUT

WHAT ABOUT THE JESUS?

>> HE IS THE MODEL OF

EXCELLENCE.

HE IS THE BE ALL/END ALL, THE

ALPHA/OMEGA.

>> Stephen: IS JESUS ONE OF

YOUR GREAT WESTERN CLASSICS IN

HERE?

>> ABSOLUTE, WE TALK ABOUT

JESUS, ESPECIALLY BEGIN WITH THE

GOSPEL OF JOHN.

WHAT WE'RE INTERESTED THERE IS

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN

THE WAY PEOPLE EXPERIENCED JESUS

AS A GOD ON THE ONE HAND, AND

THE WAY, SAY, BEFORE, THAT THE

GREEKS EXPERIENCED LOTS OF

DIFFERENT GOD AROUND.

>> Stephen: THE BIGGEST

DIFFERENCE I WOULD SAY IS JESUS

IS ACTUALLY GOD.

AND THE OTHER ONE IS A FALSE

GOD.

>> WE ACTUALLY SORT OF THINK

THAT, TOO.

WE THINK THAT GEEZ ORS REALLY IS

A GOD.

HE'S DIFFERENT THAN THE OTHERS.

HIS WAY OF UNDERSTANDING WHAT IT

IS TO BE A HUMAN BEING WAS SO

RADICALLY DIFFERENT FROM

EVERYTHING THAT CAME ALONG THAT

HE REALLY TRANSFORMED THE WORLD

AND SHOWED US A NEW POSSIBILITY.

>> Stephen: I'M BIG WITH

JESUS BUT THE PART I DRAW THE

LINE AT IS SELF-SACRIFICE.

I THINK HE'S GREAT AND HE'S GOD

AND EVERYTHING HE DID IS-- BUT,

THAT LAST PART ABOUT OTHER

PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN

ME OR THAN I.

>> I SEE, YEAH.

>> Stephen: OR HARVARD.

DO YOU HAVE TO TAKE THAT PART TO

STILL THINK JESUS WAS GREAT?

>> WELL, I MEAN, IF YOU'RE GONNA

GET IN JESUS' WORLD YOU DO?

JESUS' WORLD IS LOVE.

ONCE YOU'RE INSPIRED BY IT.

ONCE YOU'VE BREATHED IT IN, YOU

EXPERIENCE THE WHOLE WORLD--

>> Stephen: ONCE YOU'VE

BREATHED IT IN.

ARE YOU SUGGESTING WE HUFF

JESUS?

( LAUGHTER ).

>> LITERALLY INSPIRE.

THAT'S WHAT IT MEANS.

IT MEANS YOU BREATHE IN THE GOD.

YOU SAY WE CAN ACTUALLY FIND

MEANING IN SPORTING EVENTS.

THE SUPER BOWL IS THIS SUNDAY.

ARE YOU SAYING BEN

ROETHLISBERGER IS OUR GOD?

>> WELL, WE'RE HAVING A BIG

SUPER BOWL PARTY.

WHAT I THINK IS THAT THE WAY IN

WHICH YOU CAN FIND MEANING IN

BIG SPORTING EVENTS IS YOU CAN

EXPERIENCE FOR A MOMENT,

TOGETHER WITH OTHERS, WHEN A

GREAT EVENT OCCURS ON THE

BALLFIELD.

THE MOMENT WHERE YOU FIND

YOURSELF RISING AS ONE WITH ALL

THE OTHER PEOPLE ON THE COUCH,

THAT MOMENT-- THAT-- AT THAT--

SORRY.

( LAUGHTER ).

>> Stephen: NO, NO, NO, YOU

PAINTED A PICTURE.

>> I HOPE TO.

YEAH, AT THAT POINT IT'S

ABSOLUTELY CLEAR WHAT'S

EXCELLENT AND SACRED BEFORE YOU.

AND WE THINK THERE ARE LOT OF

DIFFERENT PLACES IN A LIFE WHERE

YOU COULD GRAB ON TO MOMENTS

LIKE THAT.

>> Stephen: SO FOOTBALL

BECOMES THE SACRED.

>> FOOTBALL BECOMES A VERSION OF

THE SACRED BUT THERE ARE LOTS OF

OTHERS, TOO.

>> Stephen: THAT'S ONLY

EXAMPLE THAT RESONATES WITH ME.

WE TRADE AN ALL-KNOW,

ALL-LOVING, OMANISM TENT TEMP

ROLE GOD FOR FOURTH AND GOAL.

WHAT WE THINK IS THAT IS REALLY

ONE OF THE FEW THAT EVERYONE

AGREES IS LEFT IN THE CULTURE.

WE THINK IT'S A VERY MINOR ONE

ULTIMATELY.

BUT SINCE IT RESONATES WITH SO

MANY PEOPLE, YOU IF YOU COULD

GRAB ON TO THAT ONE YOU COULD

PULL YOURSELF UP.

>> Stephen: IF THERE WAS ONE

WESTERN CLASSIC YOU WOULD

RECOMMEND SOMEBODY READ.

WHAT WOULD IT BE?

>> IT WOULD BE MELVILLE'S "MOBEY

DICK."

HE'S MAYBE THE GREATEST AMERICAN

AUTHOR--

>> Stephen: EXCUSE ME.

YOU KNOW I WROTE A BOOK

( CHEERS AND APPLAUSE )

I'M AFRAID THAT'S ALL WE HAVE

TIME FOR.

SEAN KELLY.

THE BOOK IS

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