On Wednesday, September 21, The St. Petersburg College Foundation hosted its second annual distinguished speaker event featuring political and social analyst and best-selling author David Brooks.
Brooks is a New York Times columnist and a commentator on PBS NewsHour. His newest book is The Road to Character.
Two kinds of virtue
As an ethics professor, I am always interested in new ways of approaching the moral issues of our daily lives. The most impactful comments that Mr. Brooks made were with regard to what kinds of virtues are valued in our society. He broke them down into two main categories: The first kind of virtue is our “resume self,” and the second is our “eulogy self.”
Our resume self is that side of us that is ambitious and wants to achieve certain accomplishments. Just think of the items we routinely put on our resumes. The eulogy self is the side of us that is more about those things for which we will all be remembered. He very accurately, I think, pointed out that often these two sets of virtues are very different. He proposed that instead of us being consumed with only our resume self, we should actually be spending more time on our eulogy self. I found myself thinking what would people actually say about me, and I think more importantly, I was considering what I would actually like people to say about me when I am gone. For me, this becomes an interesting motivator to act in a manner to change and impact others around me in a more meaningful way.
The second idea that I found very interesting was Mr. Brooks’ description of those very rare, magical moments where time seems to stop, the world spins in slow motion, and everything is just peaceful and perfect. He described a couple of those moments in his own life. With his descriptions, he placed the audience in those moments with him, and allowed us to feel how special those occasions were. Again, I found myself contemplating the last time I actually had one of those perfect moments. Mr. Brooks explained that he felt the ability to experience intimacy and commitment set up these moments in our lives. We have to make ourselves a bit vulnerable and take a few risks to get there. We cannot live a life being cut off from others. This actually brought me back full circle.
Perhaps the more we work on our eulogy self, the more often we are going to set ourselves up for one of those peaceful moments in life, where our purpose is apparent and blissful.