Two years ago, a good friend introduced me to David Brooks’ writing through the gift of A Road to Character. In this non-fiction work, Brooks who is a regular opinion columnist for The New York Times gives intriguing biographic reflections on people he admires from the late President Dwight Eisenhower and Dorothy Day to Samuel Johnson.
This spring I caught an interview with David Brooks; the discussion was his latest book, The Second Mountain. Freshly candid about his life, the author said he actually wrote this book for himself. His enthusiasm and joy were infectious; I ordered his book within days of seeing this interview.
I have spent the summer savouring the pages within The Second Mountain. There is just so much that I agree with in his writing. He is one of those authors you wish you could sit and chat with over lunch, listening and understanding even more about how much you have in common.
There is a secondary title: The Quest for a Moral Life. He discusses subjects like The Annunciation Moment, What Vocation Looks Like, Marriage and one of my favourites, What Mentors Do. Brooks has written a lengthy 33 page introduction which is uncommon, but holds the key to understanding his purpose for writing the book.
One passage I particularly enjoyed refers to the difference between happiness and joy. “Happiness is something you pursue; joy is something that rises up unexpectedly and sweeps over you.”
Think about those times when you have achieved a goal that seemed impossible. You may be happy about your accomplishment but your first reaction to the news of your success should be an inner joy, and of course, thanksgiving.
Brooks says it better: “Happiness fades; we get used to the things that make us happy. Joy doesn’t fade. To live with joy is to live with wonder, gratitude and hope. People who live on the second mountain have been transformed. They are deeply committed. The outpouring of love has become a steady force.”
For those who believe in a truly present and risen Christ, there is a connection to inner peace and joy through every Eucharistic celebration. So many of the Saints, like Augustine and Francis of Assisi, have found themselves transformed once they encountered the real presence of God.
Perhaps we should all pray to experience a never-ending ‘joie de vivre’ as we continue our journey, trusting in God’s will, accepting His plan and knowing His mercy and His love are limitless.
The Second Mountain by David Brooks, published 2019, Random House, New York, New York.