The Road to Character is a book that needs to be nearby in the coming months. It should be an ongoing conversation. Brooks has a website where the conversation can hopefully keep going on this subject.
What I am impressed about with Brooks is that over the past few months I have noticed a decided change in his columns at The New York Times. He has decided to engage in a moral conversation again. I admire it because I love reading his columns, then reading the visceral responses in the comments section. People really hate his ideas. It must be striking a nerve. And its shows when we’ve painted someone with broad-brushed strokes already (Brooks is typically labeled the “Republican” voice at the Times), then we automatically make a judgment as to their thoughts before even reading or hearing them.
But The Road to Character is bold. Brooks is bold enough to state that where we are currently is… not good. We need a better road. We have drifted too far into narcissism and he would love a conversation to try and bring back moral goodness as a societal value. Something we can talk about in the public square.
We must work to build up the soul again. The forces that have built up what he calls the “Big Me” (and you have to read the book on this because I won’t take enough time to explain it here) have gone too far. We are out of balance.
Instead of worship the golden idol of our own lives we’ve built up inside ourselves (the “Big Me”), we need to realize a different conversation is useful. We need our inner natures developed better. We need Adam II back in the conversation.
This is the school of “crooked timber” for Brooks. It is learning to grow with adversity. We grow strong through adversity, not worshiping some false image of ourselves. We should pay more attention to outside influences in this process.
The book is about those outside forces. He then wraps up the book by reiterating some of those principles.
He calls it “The Humility Code.” It is worth pondering.
We need higher ideals in our lives. There should be nothing wrong with that. But to get on that road, we need to get around the golden idol of self that is standing right in the way.