The Second Mountain

      David Brooks

The Second Mountain: The Quest for Moral Life. By David Brooks. New York: Random House, 2019. 346p.

David Brooks is very well known for those who tune in to Shields and Brooks on the PBS News Hour each Friday evening, his editorials in the New York Times and his book “The Road to Character” published five years ago. He is recognized as one who has something to say about our culture, politics and people. A person who does not often speak of himself, but of the news and those who make it. But with reluctance his friends convinced him that he had to speak of himself with transparency and his experience in moving from the first mountain where one knows success and happiness, to find joy, meaning and faith on the second mountain.

The quest for a moral life is not an easy journey. It requires that one must travel through the dark valley of doubt, solitude and even failure. In this valley of moral ecologies, one must realize that change and reparation are needed – a new focus for one’s life. The journey then must climb the second mountain as one recognizes each person has a soul and a heart, a vocation, faith and community. The focus is people, community, relationships and what one can do for others rather than for oneself.

In the first part of the book B. describes the two mountains. In part two, he examines the concept of vocation/call. Marriage is the subject of the third part of the book – a very helpful lesson on “the school you build together”. He has much to say about marriage that will be very helpful to those who prepare for marriage, or who experience difficulties in their present situation.

B. has much to say in part five of his work. He titles it Philosophy and Faith. This too, is part of his journey to the second mountain. He grew up in a secular family, with some experience of Christianity in Anglican school and summer camp. After his difficulties ending in divorce, he was assisted through his “valley” to faith and religion inspired by Anne whom he married. He describes himself as “a wandering Jew and a confused Christian”.

The fifth part of B.’s book is devoted to something he has experienced himself, namely “the community”. He has worked with a number of groups, one with teenagers and another with a dedicated group of adults. This experience of sharing a mission with others brought love for others and the ability to see a horizon viewed only from the Second Mountain.