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Episode Summary

New York Times columnist David Brooks joins theologian Miroslav Volf for a conversation about his 2015 book The Road to Character.

The world today seems to prefer politics to morality, a personal brand to inner character, resume virtues that achieve success over eulogy virtues that reveal who you truly are... and it like this from the news to Instagram, at PTA meetings and little league fields, from the grocery store line to the protest front lines. David Brooks thinks we need to find our way back on the road to character.

Today, New York Times columnist David Brooks joins Miroslav Volf for a conversation about his 2015 book The Road to Character. Together, they reflect on the central virtues in a life of flourishing that leads to joy, the importance of reintroducing the concept of sin back into public conversation, and the challenge of finding the resolve to pursue the commitments to vocation, faith, community, and family in a culture that tempts us toward individualism and idolatry of the self.

This is part 2 of a 2-part conversation on Flourishing, Character, and the Good Life. Check out Part 1, featuring David Brooks interviewing Miroslav Volf about his 2016 book, Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World.

Show Notes

  • Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik: Adam 1 vs Adam 2
  • Resume Virtues vs Eulogy Virtues
  • The power of a good mom for developing character
  • Christian Smith and the dearth of moral dilemmas in young people, reducing everything to emotivism and individualism
  • Sin vs "insensitive"
  • "How do you introduce sin into the secular conversation?"
  • Brooks sense of vocation: Shifting the conversation out of politics and into morality.
  • Tim Keller: don't talk about depravity, talk about disordered loves.
  • Character development requires awareness of sinfulness, correcting where we've gone wrong.
  • Managing the "Big Me"
  • How to motivate humility
  • Humility: Not thinking lowly of oneself, but seeing yourself accurately.
  • Humanity as crooked tinder: Confront your broken nature.
  • Flourishing is a commitment to four things: vocation, faith/philosophy, community, spouse/family
  • "The tree is my only friend. ... The tree talks to me and says, 'I am life, I am life, I am eternal life.'"
  • Biblical imagination of the world to come: Lion with lamb; everyone sitting under their own fig tree; entering into joy.
  • A "deeply embedded" life
  • "Every day in government sucks, but the whole experience is tremendously rewarding."
  • Flourishing and suffering, enlarging capacity for empathy
  • Love to enlarge our hearts
  • Moments where it comes together in joy
  • The gratuity and deficit that comes with joy
  • The way David Brooks writes his column: piles of papers and notes, crawling around on the floor
  • Joy as advent and anticipation
  • Market economy, competition, self-projection as a brand, selling oneself
  • The rise of fame in recent years: By 2 to 1, college students prefer a life of fame to a life of sex
  • "You need a counter-culture within yourself."
  • Tough interview question about character: "Name a time you told the truth and it hurt you."
  • "There is a vacuum for people to think and talk about their own internal lives."
  • People are hungry and thirsty for a discussion of character and flourishing amidst their default lives of success and individualism.
  • Practices and habits to form character
  • Experiencing great love that fuses one with another
  • Overcoming challenges and suffering
  • Deep involvement in an act of service
  • "Do the reading."
  • Latch on to a tradition, rather than build your own system.
  • The role of education in being drawn toward beauty and moments of transcendence

Production Notes

  • This podcast featured David Brooks and Miroslav Volf
  • Edited and Produced by Evan Rosa
  • Hosted by Evan Rosa
  • Production Assistance by Martin Chan & Nathan Jowers
  • A Production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School
  • Support For the Life of the World podcast by giving to the Yale Center for Faith & Culture:
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