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The Second Mountain

The Second Mountain

A path to change…


I like David Brooks.

He’s a Conservative voice at the Liberal New York Times. I really like many of his columns because he’s a thinker.

And THIS COLUMN is a great example (subscription may be required, but I hope not because everyone needs to read and think about this subject). Just in case, I’ll give you a small taste:

Many of the people I admire lead lives that have a two-mountain shape…People on the first mountain spend a lot of time on reputation management. They ask: What do people think of me? Where do I rank? They’re trying to win the victories the ego enjoys.”

“These hustling years are also powerfully shaped by our individualistic and meritocratic culture. People operate under this assumption: I can make myself happy. If I achieve excellence, lose more weight, follow this self-improvement technique, fulfillment will follow.”

“But in the lives of the people I’m talking about — the ones I really admire — something happened that interrupted the linear existence they had imagined for themselves. Something happened that exposed the problem with living according to individualistic, meritocratic values.”

“Life had thrown them into the valley, as it throws most of us into the valley at one point or another. They were suffering and adrift.”

“The theologian Paul Tillich wrote that suffering upends the normal patterns of life and reminds you that you are not who you thought you were. The basement of your soul is much deeper than you knew…your life is actually defined by how you make use of your moment of greatest adversity.”

“I’ve been describing moral renewal in personal terms, but of course whole societies and cultures can swap bad values for better ones. I think we all realize that the hatred, fragmentation and disconnection in our society is not just a political problem. It stems from some moral and spiritual crisis.”

“We don’t treat one another well. And the truth is that 60 years of a hyper-individualistic first-mountain culture have weakened the bonds between people. They’ve dissolved the shared moral cultures that used to restrain capitalism and the meritocracy.”

“Over the past few decades the individual, the self, has been at the center. The second-mountain people are leading us toward a culture that puts relationships at the center. They ask us to measure our lives by the quality of our attachments, to see that life is a qualitative endeavor, not a quantitative one. They ask us to see others at their full depths, and not just as a stereotype, and to have the courage to lead with vulnerability. These second-mountain people are leading us into a new culture. Culture change happens when a small group of people find a better way to live and the rest of us copy them. These second-mountain people have found it.

I know many of us have been forced down into the valley, often from the very summit of that first mountain we worked so hard to climb.

The message of this post is, you’re exactly where you need to be in order to climb your second mountain, the mountain that brings true joy.

If I can help support you in your climb, please just ask.

And if you’re ready for this journey, if you’re hearing that still and quiet voice pushing you towards change, read Brooks’ thoughts in depth; read not just this article but his new book based on it: The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.

Joy awaits.