A Better Way To Live

Nighthawks, 1942, Edward Hopper

Nighthawks, 1942, Edward Hopper

We're trapped in a valley of isolation and fragmentation.

David Brooks talks about the lies that our culture tells us about what matters, and what he realized after suffering his way to wisdom.


  • #1 career success is fulfilling
    • career success can help you avoid the shame of being a failure, but it doesn't bring any positive good
  • #2 I can make myself happy
    • this is the lie of self-sufficiency, deep relationships in life are what brings happiness, the losing of self-sufficiency
  • #3 lie of meritocracy
    • message: you are what you accomplish
    • myth: you can earn dignity by attaching yourself to prestigious b rands
    • emotion: condition love, you can "earn" your way to love
    • anthropology: you're not a soul to be purified, you're a skill to be maximized
    • evil: people who achieve a little more than others, are actually worth more a little than others

Realizations from in the valley

  • #1 freedom sucks
    • Economic freedom is OK, political freedom is great, social freedom sucks
    • The unrooted man is the adrift man. The unrooted man is the unremembered man, because he’s uncommitted to things.
    • Freedom is not an ocean you want to swim in, it’s a river you want to get across, so you can commit and plant yourself on the other side.
  • #2 You can either be broken, or be broken open
    • Pain that is not transformed gets transmitted
    • Suffering’s great power is that it’s an interruption of life. It reminds you you’re not the person you thought you were.
    • Theologian Paul Tillich: "what suffering does is it carves through what you thought was the floor of the basement of your soul, and it carves through that, revealing a cavity below, and it carves through that, revealing a cavity below".
    • you discover two things at this depth
      • your heart years for fusion with another
      • your soul years for righteousness
  • #3 expand your consciousness
    • “The problem you have is not going to be solved at the level of consciousness on which you created it. You have to expand to a different level of consciousness.” – Einstein

How do you get out of the valley?

  • throw yourself on friends and have deeper conversations
  • go out alone into the wilderness, go where there's nobody there to perform, and the ego has nothing to do, and it crumbles, and only then are you capable of being loved

happiness vs joy

  • Happiness is the expansion of self
    • you win a victory, you get a promotion
  • Joy is the dissolving of self
    • It’s the moment where you’re so lost in your work or a cause, you have totally self-forgotten.