Monday, May 09, 2016

The Tourist (according to Cavanaugh)

This term a few of us got together to read William T. Cavanaugh's magnificent 2008 book, Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire -- which I highly recommend. In it there's this excerpt from chapter 3, 'The Global and the Local', which I can't get out of my mind:

'The tourist stands detached from all particular times and places and surveys them all from above, as it were. The tourist craves what is different and authentic, but when particular locations make themselves available to the tourist, authenticity and difference are lost. Particularities, especially from the past, are invented for the tourist, but the tourist cannot participate in them. The tourist can go anywhere, but is always nowhere.  

The tourist is a type of consumer, a consumer of places. Consumerism is marked by desire with no telos other than consumption itself. Particularities are interchangeable. Above all, the consumer consumes; rather than being drawn ecstatically into a larger drama, the consumer empties things into the self.  Both the tourist and the consumer try to transcend their own limits by adopting a universal stance detached from and consuming particularities. But when they do so, the self becomes a kind of empty shell, itself dependent on the constant novelty of the particular for its being, yet itself simultaneously destroying the particularity of the many, and thus negating its own being' (74-75).

This is interesting to me on many levels--think church, society, globalism, identity--but the hardest to put my finger on is the personal. Maybe I'm supposed to be learning not to be a tourist. Not easy.

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