I agree with David Brooks from yesterday’s Sunday New York Times (The Moral Peril of Meritocracy) that my cancer scare in 2006 made my original first-mountain victories seem less important. I’d had a successful career and had a family I had longed for. Looking back, I see now how my individualistic approach had “inflamed my ego and numbed my spirit.”
David says that there are two ways we can react to being thrown into the valley of grief and pain: we can become smaller and more afraid, and never recover getting angry, resentful and tribal. Or, we can be a people broken open.
I hope that I am a person broken open.
There’s a lot in David’s opinion piece that I can relate to:
“First, there has to be a period of solitude, in the wilderness, where self-reflection can occur.”
I joined a new church, St. George’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, and immersed myself in a different religion than I was used to. I took 3 years of fervent study to learn more about Scripture and soaked in daily worship and weekly Sunday School. A few years later, I studied the Rule of The Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal Monastery in Cambridge, MA. I learned about rest and retreat and became a Fellow in January 2015.
“The self-centered voice of the ego has to be quieted before a person is capable of freely giving and receiving love.”
“Then there is contact with the heart and soul—through prayer, meditation, writing, whatever it is that puts you in contact with your deepest desires.”
I joined our healing prayer ministry team in 2010 and started my blog in September 2010. Writing helps me to think through the mysteries of God and life, not always finding the answers but enjoying the conversations and journeys along the way.
“When people are broken open in this way, they are more sensitive to the pains and joys of the world. They realize: Oh, that first mountain wasn’t my mountain. I am ready for a larger journey.”
I didn’t quit my job in a radical lifestyle departure, but I have shifted my focus from defining myself by my work.
“It’s not about self anymore; it’s about relation, it’s about the giving yourself away. Their joy is in seeing others shine.”
I’m not as focused on my career any longer, but how I can help others in theirs. I enjoy giving art tours at the Frist Art Museum in Nashville, not to have my ego on display but to share the wonders of the art world with others as we explore beauty and meaning together. It’s about teaching ESL this past Summer at Conexión Américas to help others succeed through reading and writing, just like I was helped in pursuing my education.
“I can now usually recognize first-and second-mountain people. The former have an ultimate allegiance to self; the latter have an ultimate allegiance to some commitment…We don’t treat one another well. And the truth is that 60 years of a hyper-individualistic first-mountain culture have weakened the bonds between people.”
“The second-mountain people are leading us toward a culture that puts relationships at the center. They ask us to measure our lives by the quality of our attachments, to see that life is a qualitative endeavor, not a quantitative one. They ask us to see others at their full depths, and not just as a stereotype, and to have the courage to lead with vulnerability.”
If I ever meet David Brooks, I hope he can recognize me as a second-mountain person.
Blessings, my friend,