Everybody tells you to live for a cause larger than yourself, but how exactly do you do it? The bestselling author of The Road to Character explores what it takes to lead a meaningful life in a self-centered world.
Every so often, you meet people who radiate joy—who seem to know why they were put on this earth, who glow with a kind of inner light. Life, for these people, has often followed what we might think of as a two-mountain shape. They get out of school, they start a career, and they begin climbing the mountain they thought they were meant to climb. Their goals on this first mountain are the ones our culture endorses: to be a success, to make your mark, to experience personal happiness. But when they get to the top of that mountain, something happens. They look around and find the view . . . unsatisfying. They realize: This wasn’t my mountain after all. There’s another, bigger mountain out there that is actually my mountain.
And so they embark on a new journey. On the second mountain, life moves from self-centered to other-centered. They want the things that are truly worth wanting, not the things other people tell them to want. They embrace a life of interdependence, not independence. They surrender to a life of commitment.
In The Second Mountain, David Brooks explores the four commitments that define a life of meaning and purpose: to a spouse and family, to a vocation, to a philosophy or faith, and to a community. Our personal fulfillment depends on how well we choose and execute these commitments. Brooks looks at a range of people who have lived joyous, committed lives, and who have embraced the necessity and beauty of dependence. He gathers their wisdom on how to choose a partner, how to pick a vocation, how to live out a philosophy, and how we can begin to integrate our commitments into one overriding purpose.
In short, this book is meant to help us all lead more meaningful lives. But it’s also a provocative social commentary. We live in a society, Brooks argues, that celebrates freedom, that tells us to be true to ourselves, at the expense of surrendering to a cause, rooting ourselves in a neighborhood, binding ourselves to others by social solidarity and love. We have taken individualism to the extreme—and in the process we have torn the social fabric in a thousand different ways. The path to repair is through making deeper commitments. In The Second Mountain, Brooks shows what can happen when we put commitment-making at the center of our lives.
About the Author
David Brooks is one of the nation’s leading writers and commentators. He is an op-ed columnist for The New York Times and appears regularly on PBS NewsHour and Meet the Press. He is the bestselling author of The Road to Character; The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement; Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There; and On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (and Always Have) in the Future Tense.
Praise for David Brooks’s The Road to Character
“A hyper-readable, lucid, often richly detailed human story.”—The New York Times Book Review
“This profound and eloquent book is written with moral urgency and philosophical elegance.”—Andrew Solomon, author of Far from the Tree and The Noonday Demon
“The voice of the book is calm, fair and humane. The highlight of the material is the quality of the author’s moral and spiritual judgments.”—The Washington Post
“A powerful, haunting book that works its way beneath your skin.”—The Guardian (U.K.)
The Social Animal
“Provocative . . . seeks to do nothing less than revolutionize our notions about how we function and conduct our lives.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“[A] fascinating study of the unconscious mind and its impact on our lives.”—The Economist
“Compulsively readable . . . Brooks’s considerable achievement comes in his ability to elevate the unseen aspects of private experience into a vigorous and challenging conversation about what we all share.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Brooks surveys a stunning amount of research and cleverly connects it to everyday experience. . . . As in [Bobos in Paradise], he shows genius in sketching archetypes and coining phrases.”—The Wall Street Journal