Life’s Second Mountain

Life's Second Mountain

THANK YOU to everybody who has made a commitment to support Woodmont’s mission and ministry for another year. We have had a very strong response and now we are moving into the follow up phase of our campaign. You can still email your pledge to Chris Beck We set our operating budget every year based on these commitments. The new church year runs July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020.

Last week, I attended the funeral for real estate developer Jimmy Webb. Jimmy was a friend, a great man, born and raised in Nashville, who served in the Navy and has provided significant leadership and contribution to our community. He was a humble friend to many, gave back generously, and loved his family dearly. Attending funerals is very different from officiating funerals. It gives you more time to ponder, reflect, and listen. It’s not only a time to honor someone’s life and support a grieving family, but to also think about your own life, it’s meaning and purpose.

In his new book The Second Mountain, David Brooks describes two distinct mountains in life: “If the first mountain is about building up the ego and defining the self, the second mountain is about shedding the ego and losing the self. If the first mountain is about acquisition, the second mountain is about contribution. If the first mountain is elitist, moving up – the second mountain is egalitarian – planting yourself amid those who need, and walking arm and arm with them.”

Jimmy Webb understood the importance of transitioning to the second mountain. Yet, many in our culture never make it off the first mountain. They never learn to see the big picture and ask the deeper questions of life.

Brooks argues that our culture is now suffering from over sixty years of “hyper-individualism” which he says, has become a catastrophe. Our society is very self-focused and self-centered. Technology and social media have taken this to new heights. “For six decades the worship of the self has been the central preoccupation of our culture – molding the self, investing the self, expressing the self. Capitalism, the meritocracy, and modern social science have normalized selfishness; they have made it seem that the only human motives that are real are the self-interested ones – the desire for money, status, and power.”

Hyper-individualism and lack of connection has led to an epidemic of loneliness and alienation as well as a rise in depression, mental illness, suicide, and opioid addiction. The research and statistics clearly back this up. “We’ve become too cognitive when we should be more emotional; too utilitarian when we should be using a moral lens; too individualistic when we should be more communal.”

The first mountain of life is highly focused on establishing ourselves – education, career, family, reputation, status, and recognition. On the first mountain, we teach that success is the result of self-motivation. The birth lottery also doesn’t hurt. Many born on third base convince themselves they hit a triple.

On the second mountain we learn to value more meaningful things – faith, relationships, spiritual growth, emotional intelligence, community, service, and lasting commitments. It’s not that the first mountain doesn’t matter. It does, and it’s necessary. But if it is all we live for, we will become disappointed, restless, and even disillusioned. On the second mountain, we get to experience more joy.

Joy, Brooks says, is different from happiness. It’s better. “Happiness tends to be individual. Joy tends to be self-transcending. Happiness is something you pursue; joy is something that rises up unexpectedly and sweeps over you. Happiness comes from accomplishments; joy comes from offering gifts. Happiness fades; joy doesn’t fade. To live with joy is to live with gratitude, wonder, and hope.”

If you knew Jimmy Webb (and his brother Billy), you knew he achieved great success on life’s first mountain. But he made that important shift to the second mountain where he found deeper meaning, stronger relationships, broader purpose, and greater joy.


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