Book Review: The Second Mountain by David Brooks

Some individuals love to hate on David Brooks. And his latest guide, The Second Mountain, gives alternative for his haters to hate: It’s a ebook about morality and values, largely fueled by his own private transformation over the previous decade, including a choice to split from his wife after which, later, to marry his research assistant 20 years his junior. His critics are making hay over this facet of his private story. Personally, I discover Brooks’ private life not important to understanding and even agreeing with the arguments within the guide. Additional, I’m unsure why divorce and re-marriage (even to someone youthful than you) should topic someone to ridicule. So, I each loved the guide, and do not decide Brooks’ private life.

I discover the “two mountains” premise simple but deep: The first mountain you climb in life is about worldly success, profession achievement. You get to the top of the mountain and understand it’s not totally satisfying. “Is this all there?” you marvel. So you start to climb a second mountain in life–a journey of looking for deeper which means in life:

This resonates personally, not that I’ve necessarily conquered any mountain yet in my life. It additionally resonates once I think about my associates later in life who are very a lot on the prime of a career mountain but are nonetheless looking for…one thing. The Buddhist idea that getting what you want gained’t make you cheerful — this fact, if indeed true, is incredibly profound. And it seems true.

Brooks lays out a bunch of fascinating researched stories, personal anecdotes, and research snippets to make his case that leading a more purposeful life requires intentionality in case you are to beat the natural order of self-importance. For Brooks, part of the journey to a deeper life involved faith, and turning into a “confused Christian” along with his Judaism. The most compelling stories to me have been about people who prioritized service and volunteerism in their lives.

Listed here are some of my highlights from the Kindle version.

There are momentary highs we all get after we win some victory, after which there’s also this different sort of permanent pleasure that animates people who find themselves not obsessed with themselves however have given themselves away.

It’s all the traditional stuff: good house, good family, nice vacations, good meals, good buddies, and so forth. Then something happens. Some individuals get to the highest of that first mountain, style success, and discover it…unsatisfying. “Is this all there is?” they marvel. They sense there have to be a deeper journey they will take.

I’ve written this ebook, partially, to remind myself of the sort of life I need to reside.

We may also help create happiness, however we’re seized by joy. We are pleased by happiness, however we’re reworked by pleasure. Once we expertise joy we frequently feel we’ve got glimpsed into a deeper and truer layer of reality. A narcissist may be completely happy, but a narcissist can by no means be joyful, as a result of the surrender of self is the exact factor a narcissist can’t do. A narcissist can’t even conceive of joy. That’s one of many problems with being stuck on the first mountain: You possibly can’t even see what the second mountain gives.

That is the sudden bursting of affection that you simply see, for example, on the face of a mother when she first lays eyes on her toddler. Dorothy Day captured it superbly: “If I had written the greatest book, composed the greatest symphony, painted the most beautiful painting or carved the most exquisite figure, I could not have felt the more exalted creator than I did when they placed my child in my arms….No human creature could receive or contain so vast a flood of love and joy as I felt after the birth of my child. With this came the need to worship, to adore.”

As Haidt notes, highly effective moments of moral elevation seem to push a mental reset button, wiping out feelings of cynicism and replacing them with emotions of hope, love, and moral inspiration. These moments of elevation are energizing. Individuals really feel strongly motivated to do one thing good themselves, to behave, to dare, to sacrifice, to help others. When individuals

All of this points in one course: into the ditch. The one that graduates from faculty and pursues an aesthetic pattern of life typically results in the ditch. It’s solely then that they understand the reality that one way or the other no one informed them: Freedom sucks. Political freedom is nice. But private, social, and emotional freedom—when it becomes an ultimate end—absolutely sucks. It results in a random, busy life with no discernible course, no firm basis, and through which, as Marx put it, all that’s strong melts to air.

If this sense of lostness can happen to a Tolstoy, then it could possibly occur to anyone. In any case, the remainder of us might be haunted by the concept we haven’t completed as a lot as we might. However Tolstoy was one of many biggest writers who ever lived and knew it. Wealth and fame and accomplishment don’t spare anybody from the valley.

This can be a telos crisis. A telos crisis is outlined by the fact that individuals in it don’t know what their function is. When this happens, they turn out to be fragile. Nietzsche says that he who has a “why” to stay for can endure any “how.” If you already know what your function is, you possibly can deal with the setbacks. But if you don’t know what your objective is, any setback can lead to complete collapse.

Lots is gained simply by going into a special physical place. It is advisable style and touch and really feel your means towards a brand new means of being. And there are large advantages in leaving the middle of issues and going off into the margins.

The wilderness lives at the tempo of what the Greeks referred to as kairos time, which may be slower however is all the time richer.

Think about it: Virtually every film you’ve ever seen is about any person experiencing this intense sense of merging with one thing, giving themselves away to one thing—a mission, a cause, a family, a nation, or a beloved.

Perhaps some of us will study these classes whereas racking up success after success, or just being completely liked, but for most of us the method is totally different: We’ve got a season once we chase the shallow things in life. We aren’t fulfilled. Then comes hardship, which exposes the guts and soul. The heart and soul train us that we can’t give ourselves what we want most. Achievement and pleasure are on the far aspect of service. Solely then are we really capable of love.

I’ve discovered to never underestimate the facility of a dinner desk. It’s the stage on which we turn toward each other for love like flowers in search of the solar.

It’s a paradox that when individuals are finding themselves they typically have a sensation that they’re letting go and surrendering themselves. You meet an individual in want. At first you simply commit to assist them somewhat. An hour every week. It’s no massive deal. However you then get to know and care concerning the individual, and the hooks of dedication are set. Now you’ll do what needs to be completed. At this point you simply let go of the wheel. You cease asking, What do I would like? and begin asking, What’s life asking of me? You respond.

When they are working with the homeless or the poor or the traumatized, they are laboring alongside massive welfare techniques that provide providers but not care. These techniques deal with individuals as “cases” or “clients.” They are essential to provide individuals financial stability and help, but they will’t do transformational change. As Peter Block, one of the leading specialists on group, puts it, “Talk to any poor person or vulnerable person and they can give you a long list of the services they have received. They are well serviced, but you often have to ask what in their life has fundamentally changed.”

One activity in life is synthesis. It’s to collect all of the fragmented items of a self and convey them to a state of unity, so that you simply move coherently towards a single imaginative and prescient.

Like T. S. Eliot, Orwell believed that good writing includes a continuing extinction of character. One struggles, Orwell wrote, “to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane.” The act of writing properly involved self-suppression, putting the reader in direct contact with the thing described.

“Lucky is the man who does not secretly believe that every possibility is open to him,” Walker Percy observes.

Technical, ebook information, Oakeshott writes, consists of “formulated rules which are, or may be, deliberately learned.” Sensible information, however, can’t be taught or discovered but solely imparted and purchased. It exists only in follow. Once we speak about sensible information, we have a tendency to make use of bodily metaphors. We are saying that someone has a touch for performing some activity—an ability to hit the fitting piano key with simply sufficient drive and pace. We are saying that anyone has a really feel for the sport, an intuition for a way events are going to unfold, an consciousness of when it is best to plow ahead with a problem and when you must put it apart earlier than coming again to it. We say that someone has style, an aesthetic sense of what product or presentation is superb, and which of them are slightly off.

Eighty-three % of all company mergers fail to create any worth for shareholders, and these mergers are only made after months and years of study. When making the large decisions in life, as L.A. Paul places it, “You shouldn’t fool yourself—you have no idea what you are getting into.”

In most key determination moments, there are actually many extra choices which are being filtered out by that viewpoint. Every time you end up saying “whether or not,” the Heaths argue, it’s a good suggestion to step back and find extra options. Perhaps the question isn’t breaking apart with Sue or not; it’s finding a brand new method to improve your relationship.

You may be educated with different males’s information, however you’ll be able to’t be clever with different males’s wisdom.

Who you marry is an important choice you will ever make. Marriage colors your life and every little thing in it. George Washington had a somewhat fascinating life, however nonetheless concluded, “I have always considered marriage as the most interesting event of one’s life, the foundation of happiness or misery.”

“I don’t really know of many happy marriages. I know a lot of marriages where parents love their kids.”

J. B Priestley as soon as observed that there’s in all probability no speak quite so pleasant because the speak between two people who are not but in love, however who may fall in love, and are conscious that each has hidden reserves ready to be explored.

“He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love,” King wrote.

Neuroticism, Tashiro continues, is what you need to keep away from. It appears thrilling and dramatic at first, however neurotic individuals are tense, moody, vulnerable to unhappiness. Neuroticism is the tendency to expertise unfavorable emotions similar to anger and nervousness with nice drive. “Neurotic people are likely to have a historical past of turbulent and unstable relationships with others, together with family and pals. Additionally they are typically vulnerable to what seems to be like dangerous luck, however with time, one typically sees that there are ways that their neuroticism evokes unlucky

John Gottman, the dean of marriage students, grasped the essence: “Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship. By this I mean mutual respect for and enjoyment of each other’s company. These couples tend to know each other intimately—they are well versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes, and dreams. They have an abiding regard for each other and express this fondness not just in big ways but in little ways day in and day out.”

Emotional information, Roger Scruton argues, is understanding what to feel in sure situations—with the intention to be correctly disgusted by injustice, correctly reverent before an act of self-sacrifice, properly sympathetic in friendship, and properly forbearing when wronged.

One morning, for example, I was getting off the subway in Penn Station in New York at rush hour. I was surrounded as all the time by hundreds of people, silent, sullen, trudging to work in long strains. Normally in these circumstances you are feeling like simply one other ant main a meaningless life in a meaningless universe. Normally the routineness of life dulls your capacity for marvel. However this time all the things flipped, and I saw souls in all of them. It was like all of the sudden the whole lot was illuminated, and I turned conscious of an infinite depth in every of these hundreds of people. They have been dwelling souls. All of the sudden it seemed like probably the most vivid part of reality was this: Souls waking up in the morning. Souls driving the practice to work. Souls craving for goodness. Souls wounded by earlier traumas. Souls in each individual, illuminating them from the within, haunting them, and infrequently enraptured inside them, souls alive or numb in them; and with that got here a feeling that I used to be related by radio waves to all of them—some underlying soul of which we have been all a bit.

Rabbi Heschel says that awe shouldn’t be an emotion; it’s a approach of understanding. “Awe is itself an act of insight into a meaning greater than ourselves.”

Then, as now, I attempt to rent people who have some development on their résumé that doesn’t make sense by the traditional logic of the meritocracy. I need to see that they consider in one thing greater than the traditional definition of success.

There is a Muslim saying, Whatever you assume God is, He isn’t that.

I skilled grace before I skilled God, and typically I nonetheless have hassle getting back to the source. However I discover that as long as there are five or ten individuals in your life whose faith seems gritty and actual and like your personal, that keeps the entire thing compelling.

Later in life, Buechner discovered himself amid young Christians who spoke confidently about God as in the event that they talked to Him all the time, and He talked back. God advised them to pursue this job and never that one, and to order this on the restaurant and never that. He was dumbstruck. He wrote that in the event you say you hear God talking to you daily on each subject, you’re both making an attempt to tug the wool over your personal eyes or everyone else’s. As an alternative, he continues, you need to get up in your bed and ask, “Can I believe it all again today?” Or, better but, ask yourself that query after you’ve scanned the morning information and seen all of the atrocities that get committed. If your answer to that question of belief is “yes” every single day, you then in all probability don’t know what believing in God really means, Buechner writes. “At least five times out of ten the answer should be No because the No is as important as the Yes, maybe more so. The No is what proves you’re human in case you should ever doubt it. And then if some morning the answer happens to be really Yes, it should be a Yes that’s choked with confession and tears and…great laughter.”

One of many signature details of the Web age is that distance isn’t lifeless. Place matters as much as ever, and rather more than we ever knew. The common American lives eighteen miles from his or her mom. The typical school scholar enrolls in a university fifteen miles from residence. A research of Facebook associates nationwide discovered that 63 % of the individuals we good friend stay inside 100 miles. People transfer much less today, not more.

Hyper-individualism, the reigning ethos of our day, is a system of morals, feelings, ideas, and practices based mostly on the concept the journey by way of life is an individual journey, that the objectives of life are particular person happiness, authenticity, self-actualization, and self-sufficiency. Hyper-individualism puts the same query on everyone’s lips: What can I do to make myself pleased?

The tribalist is looking for connection however isolates himself ever more bitterly within his personal resentments and distrust. Tribalism is the darkish twin of group. The tragic paradox of hyper-individualism is that what began as an ecstatic liberation ends up as a conflict of tribe towards tribe that crushes the individuals it sought to free.