Today I read this blurb on David Brooks talking about the meaningfulness of life:
In a culture that's fixated on finding joy, New York Times columnist David Brooks has another take on living a meaningful life -- and it might surprise you.
"We want to not live a life of just good experiences, but a life of meaning...and we’re willing to give up some happiness for some holiness, whether you're religious or not," Brooks says. "People are willing to endure suffering for something they really believe in."
Brooks says he found this to be true among both the richest and the poorest, and he explores the theory in depth in his book The Road to Character.
Ultimately, the thing that gives our life meaning is not happiness, but suffering.
“If you ask anybody, ‘What’s the activity that you had that made you who you are?’ no one says, ‘You know I had a really great vacation in Hawaii.’ No one says that. They say, ‘I had a period of struggle. I lost a loved one. I was in the Army. And that period of struggle or that period of toughness made me who I am.'"
“Joy,” David Brooks writes, “is a byproduct experienced by people who are aiming for something else. But it comes.”
And got interested in his book The Road to Character
Brooks begins with a sweeping overview of the non-intersecting worlds of moral logic and economic logic, as he has it, dividing us into an “Adam I,” who seeks success in the world, and an “Adam II,” more deeply committed to character and an inner life. He then gives us 10 or so portraits of enduring “heroes of renunciation,” easing us into the theme with such Greatest Generation stalwarts as George Marshall and Dwight D. Eisenhower, before alighting on such global Hall of Fame worthies, granitic-seeming but riven with inner terrors and flaws, as St. Augustine, Samuel Johnson and George Eliot. Within each brief life, he inserts an extended encomium to some useful virtue, be it humility or sacrifice or, in one case, passionate love.
“The Road to Character” is an account of Brooks’s effort to find his way out of shallow punditry—or, as he puts it, to “cultivate character.” To make his case, Brooks—who likes to reach for the occasionally effortful neologism—has come up with a pair of clarifying terms: the “résumé virtues” and the “eulogy virtues.” Résumé virtues, he proposes, are those that are valued in the contemporary marketplace: the high test scores achieved by a student, the professional accomplishments pulled off by an adult. They are the skills that are met with bigger paychecks and public approbation. Eulogy virtues, on the other hand, are the aspects of character that others praise when a person isn’t around to hear it: humility, kindness, bravery. Our society exalts the résumé virtues, Brooks argues, but it overlooks the humbler eulogy virtues. Still, he writes, we know at our core that this second category of values is what matters more.