David Brooks On the Road To Character at BYU

A dear friend tipped me off about this speech given at BYU last week. She said, “Have you heard his talk on character? David Brooks is a conservative columnist at the New York Times (and has a show on PBS) and a friend to BYU and our Church.”

I was just going to recommend the highlights video to watch, but after I watched that, I was so intrigued by David Brooks’ talk, that I had to watch the whole thing. It is the best 33 minutes and 25 seconds you will spend today. Or just get started and watch 10 minutes of it. You will laugh your way through the first five minutes–I did!

Finding the Road to Character

I read his The Road to Character, a few years ago, and I didn’t love it. The stories were very long and not that interesting to me. After hearing his talk, I realize that I am the one lacking and I am going to read it again. The printed version of his talk hasn’t come out yet, so these notes below are from me just listening.

David Brooks said, “When you walk through the career side of life with a certain set of values and we take kids in the intensity of their life and we feed them into the college admissions process, which teaches them that status and achievement are the core of life.”

David Brooks calls it “The Culture of the Meritocracy”.

(Meritocracy is a political system in which economic goods and/or political power are vested in individual people on the basis of talent, effort, and achievement, rather than wealth or social class. Advancement in such a system is based on performance, as measured through examination or demonstrated achievement. )

Which we have been taught is a good thing, right?

David Brooks said,

“If you take it (meritocracy) unadulterated, they are lies:

  1. Career success makes you happy
  2. Self-sufficiency that  you can make yourself happy. If I win that game, lose 15 lbs., etc.
  3. Life is an Individual journey (But it isn’t!)
  4. Create your own truth, your own wordview on your own.
  5. You are what you accomplish.
  6. You earn respect and dignity by attaching yourself to prestigious brands.
  7. You earn your way to be loved— (that s a conditional love)
  8. You are a set of skills to be maximized, not a soul to be saved.
  9. People who achieve more are worth more than other people.”

“If you want to tear apart your society these are good lies to introduce to the society.’

“One skill that the center of any healthy family, company, classroom, community or nation needs to develop is to know how to make people feel heard and understood. The ability to see someone differently.’

“You think about all of those different  cases in the Bible where people were mis-seen and misunderstood. ‘

“Weavers” are people that David Brooks looks for. They are geniuses at making you feel heard and understood. They

  1. Plant themselves down somewhere. They are rooted.
  2. Are daring social explorers–all of life is a series of daring adventures from a knowing base.
  3. Love being the only person like them in the room.
  4. Are emotionally transparent.
  5. Have learned to use their suffering well.

This is the tip of the iceberg.

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