In a small group meeting, students asked New York Times columnist David Brooks his thoughts on closing the political divide in America today. Brooks has visited 33 states over the last several years, trying to “see the stories,” as he calls it, of individual people. His conclusion is that people don’t meet the commonly held stereotypes regarding them, and that personal connection and relationships have tremendous power on our lives.
“It’s very hard to hate up close,” Brooks stated. “If you find yourself hating the opposition, just meet one.”
Brooks gave a speech as part of Browning Presents! and also had the opportunity to visit with a smaller group of students and answer questions about his career on Jan. 14.
Brooks shared many stories of people he has met throughout the years, people who have experienced low “valleys,” as he called them. However, those individuals took hard experiences in their lives and used them to make a difference in their community.
Brooks talks a lot about building character and morals in his most recent book, The Second Mountain. In the book, Brooks shared personal stories alongside those of others he has met about the four biggest commitments that shape our lives: vocation, spouse and family, community and faith. Brooks maintains that making sure we choose these commitments wisely will help us to find true joy and help to build a good character.
Brooks says that having good relationships helps us to understand others. If we can understand emotions and how many different types of sadness or joy there are, we will better understand relationships.
“Those are the things that matter the most. I like that he can bring that in and make it pertinent in a world where a lot of people don’t talk about that anymore,” Weber State student Tracy Compton said about Brooks’ thoughts on emotions and relationships.
Compton added that students should use these opportunities to see other people’s perspectives and to grow, just like Brooks mentions in his book.
Brooks is also the leader of a project called Weave: The Social Fabric Project. This project aims to help end the loneliness and isolation in our society. People all across the world are shifting from individualism and putting relationships more into focus.
According to The Aspen Institute website’s description of Weave, “Weaving is a way of life and a state of mind, not a set of actions. It’s about the spirit of caring you bring to each interaction with someone else. It’s a willingness to be open and loving, whether you get anything in return. As humans, we long for honest, deep connection. Weavers make the effort to build those connections and make others feel valued.”
Near the end of his speech, Brooks said that if we are looking to help grow our connections with others, the other things we think are important in life seem more minuscule. We can help lift others out of their valleys and they can do the same for us. Our souls crave connection, and Brooks is a believer in the fact that when we really see other people, we can find true joy.
“Take delight in the deep awareness of other people,” Brooks said.
According to Brooks’ ideas, finding true joy isn’t going to come from the prize; it is in the process — a process that involves making relationships and approaching people with an open mind.