By David Brooks
A meditation: Why is it we have a reluctance to hold people accountable on the big things that matter or that hurt people, while only judging and confronting each other on small matters of taste? Perhaps because our culture has made moral relativism a virtue beyond reproach, which manifests itself in our daily life as having no confidence or authority for claiming right from wrong, but supreme confidence in our inconstant feelings.
How to live, treat others, and make decisions are skills not always attained from schools, parents, churches, or other institutions. David Brooks attempts to partly fill this void by offering his biographies and musings on proven historical figures. Self-skepticism, moderation, and outward focus are all themes of the work, which is surprisingly refreshing with its shunning of the current obsession with self-directed truths.
In 1950, 12 percent of high school students told the Gallup Organization they considered themselves very important; by 2005, that figure was 80 percent. The statistic is used in the book to show we have in fact lost something in the march of progress–the ability to see beyond ourselves.
The book holds our common wisdom up to the light and deliberately checks all facets. Rather than seeming self-contradictory, it demonstrates the push-pull of competing and valid truths, the balance of which must be attained for a stable worldview.
MC highly recommends this as your next non-fiction read. Mr. Brooks steadily holds interest with fresh angles on worn topics, just as in his New York Times columns. One sees that being a person of character does not mean becoming less interesting, but more so.