David Brooks is a voice of sanity, of wisdom, and perhaps most importantly, a voice for the human spirit in today’s challenging times. He invites awareness that it is how we are in relationship with one another that will bring healing and understanding in our communities, our countries, and our world. He founded an organization at the Aspen Institute called Weave: The Social Fabric Project with the express purpose of weaving uplifting relationships within communities.
In David Brooks’ words:
The Weaver movement is repairing our country’s social fabric, which is badly frayed by distrust, division and exclusion. People are quietly working across America to end loneliness and isolation and weave inclusive communities—shifting our culture from hyper-individualism that is all about personal success, to relationalism that puts relationships at the center of our lives.
I’ve had the privilege of hearing David Brooks speak twice, and I am a regular reader of his op-ed column in The New York Times. A progressive liberal friend of mine calls him “his favorite conservative.” While I don’t find myself in agreement with everything that he writes or says, I see him as a voice for “conserving” life. To “conserve” means to use or manage resources wisely—to preserve what is important; to save that which we hold dear.
The World is Built on a Matrix of Relationships
One of the fundamental principles upon which Transformational Presence is based says that the world is built on a matrix of relationships. As leaders, coaches, and people who want to make a difference, we make the greatest impact when we work in the relationship space—the space in between—the space between people, between people and ideas or beliefs, between groups, between cultures, and on and on.
David Brooks is currently on a mission to bring us into awareness of this relationship space. In this way, his core message is deeply aligned with Transformational Presence. For me, his articles are “must-reads.” He almost always gives me something to think about. Furthermore, his writings often touch something deep inside of me—a feeling, a belief, a passion, a deeper knowing that connects us all at a profound level of being. He is an intellectual who in recent years has discovered his true fulfillment and joy in his heart. Through his writing and speaking, I’ve witnessed his own powerful journey to the soul.
Although he is somewhat introverted and not the most polished speaker, David Brooks’ presence is open, vulnerable, transparent, and sometimes quite humorous. It’s his presence and his message that pulls you in. He’s real. When I heard him speak at Chautauqua last summer, the packed amphitheater audience of 5,000 people was riveted by his hour-long talk. As the saying goes, “you could have heard a pin drop.” The entire audience was hanging on every word. He was speaking to the deeper meaning of life that comes alive in the relationships we forge with one another.
“Broken” or “Broken Open?”
In his 15-minute April 2019 main-stage TED Talk (see below), David Brooks talks about “the lies our culture tells us about what matters – and a better way to live.” Acknowledging that we currently have an economic crisis, an environmental crisis, and a political crisis, his focus in this talk is on what he sees as a social and relational crisis. He speaks of a choice we face in difficult times: We can either be “broken,” or we can be “broken open.” “Broken” can lead to becoming smaller and angrier as a person and lashing out at others. “Pain that is not transformed gets transmitted.”
Yet he goes on to say that when we allow ourselves to be “broken open,” we discover that we are perhaps not as strong or powerful or invincible as we had thought. At the same time, “You find depths inside of yourself that you never anticipated, and only spiritual and relational food will fill those depths. When you get down there, you get out of the head of the ego and into the heart. [You realize that what] we really yearn for is longing and love for another. And you discover your soul – a piece of you that has no shape, size, color, or weight, but that gives you infinite dignity and value.”
Finding the Language of a Recovered Society
David Brooks closes his talk by describing two contrasting approaches to life. The first is a life focused on individual happiness and career success—respectful goals as we become established in who we are and what we do. Yet he suggests that there is more to life than that.
He concludes with a second approach:
We need a cultural and relational revolution.
We need to name the language of
a recovered society.
The Weavers have found that language.
when a small group of people
find a better way to live,
and the rest of us copy them.
And the social unity gets repaired.
Enjoy the video.
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