the Little Me and THE GREAT ME

“We live in the culture of the Big Me. The meritocracy wants you to promote yourself. Social media wants you to broadcast a highlight reel of your life. Your parents and teachers were always telling you how wonderful you were.”

 “External success is achieved through competition with others. But character is built during the confrontation with your own weakness.”

 “… if you live for external achievement, years pass and the deepest parts of you go unexplored and unstructured. You lack a moral vocabulary. It is easy to slip into a self-satisfied moral mediocrity. You grade yourself on a forgiving curve. You figure as long as you are not obviously hurting anybody and people seem to like you, you must be O.K. But you live with an unconscious boredom, separated from the deepest meaning of life and the highest moral joys.”

 “Commencement speakers are always telling young people to follow their passions. Be true to yourself. This is a vision of life that begins with self and ends with self. But people on the road to inner light do not find their vocations by asking, what do I want from life? They ask, what is life asking of me?”

“…people on the road to character understand that no person can achieve self-mastery on his or her own. Individual will, reason and compassion are not strong enough to consistently defeat selfishness, pride and self-deception. We all need redemptive assistance from outside.”

 “The people on this road see the moments of suffering as pieces of a larger narrative. They are not really living for happiness, as it is conventionally defined. They see life as a moral drama and feel fulfilled only when they are enmeshed in a struggle on behalf of some ideal.”

 “People on this road see life as a process of commitment making. Character is defined by how deeply rooted you are. Have you developed deep connections that hold you up in times of challenge and push you toward the good? In the realm of the intellect, a person of character has achieved a settled philosophy about fundamental things…”

 “… love decenters the self. It reminds you that your true riches are in another…”

The Moral Bucket List by David Brooks, The New York Times (Opinion) April 11, 2015


A couple of thoughts on this one.

The first is it reminds me of a children’s story entitled “The Little Me and THE GREAT ME,” by Lou Austin. It was published and copyrighted by The Partnership Foundation in 1957. The introduction begins with a quote from the poet and screenwriter Samuel Hoffenstein: “Everywhere I go, I go too, and spoil everything.”

The introduction to the book begins as follows: “This (book)… aims to revive an old but neglected truth: that there are two forces, two wills in every person: one – the will of the human self, the other – the will of the divine self. Between these two forces there is a continuous running battle.

And the story ends with this last affirmation; “…when God is my Partner, I will do only kind and loving things.


The second thought I have comes from the last line in the edited quote by David Brooks, his observation that “… love decenters the self. It reminds you that your true riches are in another…”

This reminds me of the words in Paul Stookey’s “Wedding Song” paraphrasing the words of Christ found in Matthew 18:20: “…whenever two or more of you are gathered in My name, There am I…There is Love.”

Down through the years of my own experience the sentiment expressed has been distilled down to a personal phrase which describes my own experience. “Wherever two or more are gathered together in Love, all things become clear.”

It’s true. If in our entire lifetime we only learn to truly love one other person, that’s a lifetime well spent. When we finally figure out what love is, really, we are somehow collaterally blessed with the answers to those gnawing questions we come here with about the meaning of life, the secret of the universe, and why we are here.

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