“I’ve achieved more career success than I ever thought I would, but I looked at the inner light they had, and I said, I haven’t achieved that.” The Christian Science Monitor quotes David Brooks regarding the subject of his new book:
And so, he set out to explore that elusive quality, a certain contentment through selflessness. The result was “The Road to Character,” a new book in which Brooks profiles some of the world’s greatest leaders, thinkers, and humanitarians, in an effort to shine a light on the sort of moral virtues that have been discounted in the modern age.
“It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues,” he wrote in a New York Times oped piece which quickly became the NYT’s most-emailed story of the day. “The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?”
Society today places great importance on resume virtues, he says, and teaches children from a young age to believe they are special, important.
This factoid is at once both jaw dropping and yet not all surprising, considering American educators have spent the last 40 years or so convincing kids they’re all super-special snowflakes who have achieved greatness and glory before even graduating*:
“We’re raised in a society called the ‘big me’ society,” Brooks said Monday on “CBS This Morning.” “In 1950, the [Gallup organization] asked high school kids, are you a very important person? Then 12 percent said yes. Asked again in 2005, 80 percent said, yes, I’m a very important person. We all think we’re super important.
“That’s great for your career if you’re branding yourself. That’s great for social media, if you want a highlight reel of you own life you can put up on Facebook, but if you want inner growth, you’ve got to be radically honest,” Brooks said. “…[T]he road to character is built by confronting your own weakness.”
In his weekly book-related post, Ace’s co-blogger highlights this quote from Brooks:
As for himself, Brooks told NPR he is “paid to be a narcissistic blowhard, to volley my opinions, to appear more confident about them than I really am, to appear smarter than I really am, to appear better and more authoritative than I really am. I have to work harder than most people to avoid a life of smug superficiality.”
Not to mention falling for malignant narcissistic politicians based on their smug superficiality and the creases in their bespoke trousers.
* Though as someone tweeted yesterday, “American grade school: everyone’s a winner. American college: everyone’s a victim.”
Related: “From Neo to Theo? Is the New York Times’ David Brooks Converting to Christianity?”