While listening to David Brooks talk about his book, The Road to Character, this Enough blog project came to mind over and over again. When we ask, What is enough? are we talking about character? Maybe, partially. There may be some interesting overlap.
On this blog, I find myself writing a lot about continual, incremental improvement. Reflective living. I think aloud about habit and day to day living. How I live my day is how I live my life. How I live today, over the course of a lifetime, adds up. So when Brooks talked about how habit makes virtue, I perked up. He was taking an idea like character and looking at it in action, in our daily lives, in our habits and lifestyle. I was on board. Then he talked about the virtue of admiration.
Brooks believes it is important to admire people. We should read biographies, watch documentaries, seek people out who we admire so that their voices talk in our heads throughout our lives. If we get to know their lives well, their voices can be in conversation with us as we make day to day decisions. He referenced Dorothy Day as an example. Totally. That makes perfect sense.
Children seem to admire automatically. They look up to people, more than literally. They have heroes, and aren’t afraid to claim them as heroes. They let themselves get obsessed with characters, emulating and mimicking them. I admired my parents and older girls. I admired certain athletes, politicians, and strong women when I was younger. I grew to love reading books about civil rights activists and yogis.
Through grad school, I often read books that put sound bites in my head that I wanted there. When formal schooling stopped, I have to admit my admiration dropped off a bit. I have people I respect, but the voices in my head have hushed a bit. The quotes aren’t as easily accessible.
An important part of my adult admiration is making friends from different generations. I have several friends a decade younger than me who inspire me with their vision, energy, spontaneity, generosity, hope, and creativity. I have several friends a decade or two older than me who inspire me with their parenting, their lived in ritual and their curated lives. They give me ideas about who I want to be and inspire me to move toward claiming that person.
Yet Brooks challenged me to get back to a child like sense of admiration for people, one that obsesses a little and opening mimics and emulates. Read books. Watch documentaries. Dig deeper. Memorize quotes and movements and strategies and tricks of the trade. In my quest to live out of a sense of Enough, it helps to have both friends and heroes in my corner, nudging me on.
Who are your Enough Heroes?