Recommended Read: A New Way to Stick it to The Man (aka The Moral Peril of the Meritocracy)

A reflection on David Brooks' NYT article The Moral Peril of the Meritocracy, where we commit to community and connection over personal gain
Photo by Tao Yuan.

I seem to be on a roll for reading articles that completely defy my expectations. Last week I shared a powerful call to vulnerability and community that I thought was going to be productivity advice.

This week, I am sharing another article I was wrong about: David Brooks' New York Times article The Moral Peril of the Meritocracy.

Here, I was excited to read another piece about the lie at the heart of meritocracy: the idea that everyone has had an equal shot at success and earned their station in life by their own merits, and thus those who made it out on top are more deserving than those who didn't.

I am so happy I was wrong.

Instead, he reveals a different lie at the heart of meritocracy: the lie of it being a meaningful pursuit at all.

Brooks speaks about what he calls a "two-mountain life", a life that starts out climbing the meritocracy mountain, pursuing individual advancement and happiness, and then somehow finds itself jettisoned from that mountain into a valley to rediscover itself and look for a better mountain to climb.

"Suffering upends the normal patterns of life and reminds you that you are not who you thought you were. The basement of your soul is much deeper than you knew. Some people look into the hidden depths of themselves and they realize that success won’t fill those spaces. Only a spiritual life and unconditional love from family and friends will do."

Oh boy. You guys. TRUE WORDS.

The first mountain is all about individual success and the pursuit of the kind of personal freedom that comes from amassing wealth and accolades--the kind where your money and influence detaches you from obligation. The second mountain is all about committing, putting down roots and discovering that there are deep rivers of joy buried underground that you can only find if you stay put for a while and care about someone and something else.

I like the words Brooks uses to describe second mountain people: they are all-in, they contribute, they are making promises without expecting anything in return (something that, I am learning, is actually really hard), they have surrendered to a cause...

"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."

I love this so much. Do you love this so much? I love this so much.

I love that not only is it about joy and personal connection and a higher-quality life, but it's about community and values and it's also kind of about sticking it to a hyper-capitalist society.

I'm in!

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