Articles Habit People

Pieces of A Larger Narrative

May 20, 2015

Fields of Strawberry

Despite the fact that we are in a constant upheaval with the internet that forgets, it is fortunate that, because of his instructions prior to his death, Derek’s self-hosted domain would be preserved, ensuring that his experiences and legacy would continue in his last blog post. It’s a sobering read that constantly reminds me to set aside little vanities and superficiality for the loving relationships and wonderfully supportive people in my life.

On the topic of Penmachine Derek Miller’s memorial, which I have been spending quiet time to reflect and write about on each anniversary, one writer from the New York Times caught my eye about bridging the divide between building a career and creating a moral bucket list for your funeral.

“It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful…

We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light.

Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.”
—The Moral Bucket List by David Brooks, (first published in The New York Times, April 11, 2015)

Brooks leads the discussion on a perspective that relies on the building blocks of our personal failures, recognizing character and humility in others. It’s a topic that hovers as a pink elephant in the room when depression and suicide are present in daily conversations, lately.

I have a tendency to quietly observe others and withholding my thoughts in speech, and wonder if other people are constantly thinking and wondering if their daily interactions will be present during their funeral eulogy. In contrast to this sombre frame of mind, Jack Cheng recently elaborated on Bruce Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer, and our cultural association of external accomplishment with internal accomplishments, and the presence of distractions.

“—when a person has achieved something worthy of recognition we think it’s because they have persevered and overcome a great inner struggle.

Sometimes this is the case but not always; often an external achievement comes out of avoidance, of doing anything and everything possible not to have to face the real struggle. We drown ourselves in work to distract us from problems in our love lives. We try to outdo our rivals to escape our jealousy.

When we have exterior accomplishment without the interior, that’s when, I think, we most strongly feel like we are imposters. Like, Okay, we’ve done this great praiseworthy thing so how come we still aren’t a better human being? Perhaps it’s because when we ignore the internal challenges, we tend to act from fear rather than in spite of it. When we do the former, even if we succeed outwardly, we fail inwardly.

That vague and oft-repeated idea—being true to yourself—in the context of the interview takes on a much more precise meaning.

Being true to yourself is facing the interior challenges; taking the shame and struggle given to you by birth and circumstance, and making it your life’s work.”

—The Moral Bucket List by David Brooks, (first published in The New York Times, April 11, 2015)

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