I’m reading David Brooks’ recent book, The Road to Character and it has reminded me that as a child, my favorite books were autobiographies. I wasn’t drawn to the lives of the rich and famous, but instead to those who had overcome incredible obstacles like Helen Keller and Anne Frank.
As I got older, I realized that there were contemporary heroes who were busy with their lives of service: people like Mother Teresa, military heroes, and even my small town’s Chief of Police. They quietly and humbly went about making the world a safer and better place for humanity.
Something has changed.
David Brooks writes that there is a shift, “from a culture of self-effacement that says ‘Nobody’s better than me, but I’m no better than anyone else’ to a culture of self-promotion that says, ‘Recognize my accomplishments, I’m pretty special.’ Along with this rise in self-esteem, there has been a tremendous increase in the desire for fame. In 1976, fame ranked fifteenth out of sixteen when asked to list their life goals. By 2007, 51% of young people reported that being famous was one of their top personal goals.” I’d imagine it’s even higher today in 2015. Brooks points out that recent commencement addresses echo the same theme: “My advice to you is to be true to yourself and everything will be fine.”
Well, everything isn’t fine.
Is it a sign of our culture that selfies on FACEBOOK are the predominant photo posted, and fame can be grabbed by shooting a police officer, or a group of innocent people in a movie theater, school, church or during a TV broadcast?
Instead, heroes of the past were marked by humility which Brooks defines as “the awareness that there’s a lot you don’t know and that a lot of what you think you know is distorted or wrong.”
Mother Teresa, my cousin who served on a nuclear submarine, and the former Chief of Police in Geneseo, NY are all heroes of mine. They were wise enough to have overcome the biases and tragedies in their life as well as the overconfident tendencies that are our nature.
To my knowledge, none of them have selfies on FACEBOOK, or even have a FACEBOOK page.
Blessings, my friend,