If You Have Not Found The Life You Want, This Could Be Why

david brooks second mountain

One of the reasons I enjoy reading books is because they help me discover new books to read in the future. In Satya Nadella's Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft's Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone, I noticed Nadella's reference to David Brook's book The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life. What caught my attention is the idea that our lives consist of two mountains. The first mountain is about individual success, and the second mountain is about serving others. I wanted to learn more about it as I feel that I am currently in the process of climbing that second mountain.

In my post about the imagined order, I discussed the Three-Stage Model of life: Education – Work – Retirement. This is a conventional model that dominates mainstream culture. It teaches us to pursue self-interest, such as money, power, and fame, and as a result, makes us self-centered. At some point in our lives, we start to realize that this way of living is not enough. We yearn for more, but what exactly?

When speaking about two mountains, Brooks remarks that climbing the second mountain does not mean rejecting the first mountain. It is just a different phase of life, a more satisfying and generous one, in Brooks' view. On the first mountain, we are defining who we are, building the ego, and attempting to move up in life. We are ambitious, independent, and strategic. Our ego prefers certainty over uncertainty and chooses a job and a life that will impress others.

On the second mountain, we let go of our ego and lose the self. We focus on contributing to those who need us. Instead of being ambitious, we are now relational, relentless, and intimate with others. Instead of celebrating independence, we celebrate interdependence. Instead of obsessing with personal happiness, we strive for meaning and moral joy. Ultimately, we feel more whole once we climb the second mountain. That is why Brooks considers the second mountain a richer and fuller phase of life.

Related to the second mountain is a moral ecology, a system of beliefs and behaviors that lives on after a person dies. Brooks suggests that a moral ecology is one of the greatest legacies an individual can leave. Among many ways, moral ecology guides us is how we define our ultimate purpose.

The students for a Democratic Society, an independent, nonpartisan, and politically nonaligned nonprofit organization, wrote:

"The goal of man and society should be human independence…a concern not with image of popularity but with finding a meaning of life that is personally authentic...This kind of independence does not mean egoistic individualism - the object is not to have one's way so much as it is to have a way that is one's own."

Brooks argues that the new moral ecology is about freedom, autonomy, and authenticity. We should not accept ideas just because everyone around us believes in them. We should develop our own values and our own worldviews. As Justice Anthony Kennedy said, "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

Brooks' main argument is that we have pushed too far with the individualist worldview of the first mountain, putting our own egos at the center of our lives. This mindset has had severe effects on our country and the world, causing division and damaging society. Brooks is encouraging us to start climbing the second mountain where we can find belonging, meaning, and purpose. There, we can create a healthier society through relationalism and a commitment to others.

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