It's Better Than It Looks: Election 2016
New York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks has a unique gift for bringing audiences face to face with the spirit of our times, and he does so with humor and insight. A regular analyst on PBS NewsHour and NPR’s All Things Considered, he is a keen observer and commentator on politics and foreign affairs. His newest book, “The Road to Character,” tells the story of ten great lives that illustrate how character is developed and models how we can all strive to build rich inner lives.
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[00:00:09.776]FEMALE ANNOUNCER: Today you
are part of an important
our shared future.
[00:00:14.881]The E. N. Thompson Forum
on World Issues explores
[00:00:17.450]a diversity of viewpoints
[00:00:20.286]and public policy issues
to promote understanding
[00:00:23.590]and encourage debate
across the University
[00:00:25.792]and the State of Nebraska.
[00:00:28.128]Since its inception in 1988,
[00:00:32.832]have challenged and inspired us,
[00:00:35.135]making this forum one of the
preeminent speaker series
[00:00:39.539]in higher education.
[00:00:42.609]It all started when E. N.
"Jack" Thompson imagined a forum
[00:00:46.846]on global issues that
would increase Nebraskans'
[00:00:49.783]understanding of cultures and
events from around the world.
[00:00:53.720]Jack's perspective was
influenced by his travels,
[00:00:57.090]his role in helping to
found the United Nations,
[00:00:59.859]and his work at the
[00:01:02.429]for International Peace.
[00:01:04.931]As president of the Cooper
Foundation in Lincoln,
[00:01:08.001]Jack pledged substantial
funding to the forum,
[00:01:11.171]and the University of Nebraska
[00:01:13.006]and Lied Center for Performing
Arts agreed to co-sponsor.
[00:01:17.477]Later, Jack and his
wife Katie created
[00:01:20.246]the Thompson Family Fund
[00:01:22.282]to support the forum
and other programs.
[00:01:25.485]Today, major support is provided
by the Cooper Foundation,
[00:01:30.790]Lied Center for Performing Arts,
[00:01:32.859]and University of
[00:01:35.762]We hope this talk sparks an
exciting conversation among you.
[00:01:42.335]And now, on with the show.
Good evening, I'm Mike Zeleny
[00:02:00.186]with the University of Nebraska.
[00:02:01.855]I'm honored to welcome you
[00:02:03.289]to tonight's E. N. Thompson
Forum on World Issues.
[00:02:06.059]For more than a quarter century,
[00:02:07.594]the University and Cooper
Foundation have partnered
[00:02:09.662]with the Lied Center
for Performing Arts
[00:02:11.331]to make this forum possible.
[00:02:13.199]We would like to especially
thank the generous sponsors
[00:02:15.635]of tonight's lecture,
[00:02:18.404]Nebraska's PBS and NPR stations,
[00:02:21.674]the UNL Chancellor's Office,
[00:02:23.276]which special thanks to
Chancellor Ronnie Green
[00:02:25.578]and Former Chancellor
[00:02:27.714]the College of Journalism
and Mass Communications,
[00:02:30.316]and the Center for
[00:02:32.986]This year, E. N.
Thompson forum speakers
[00:02:34.854]are addressing the
theme Crossing Borders.
[00:02:37.457]The seemingly hard
and fast lines
[00:02:39.659]that define American
politics have blurred
[00:02:41.995]in the 2016
[00:02:45.031]Perhaps no journalist
today is better
[00:02:47.200]at incisively analyzing
culture and politics
[00:02:50.003]than our speaker tonight, and
we're grateful he chose us
[00:02:53.206]over the Vice
[00:03:03.349]Although I understand
it was a closer call
forum and Maroon 5.
[00:03:08.821]David Brooks is one of America's
[00:03:12.158]He writes a biweekly op-ed
column for The New York Times.
[00:03:15.094]He's also a regular
analyst on PBS NewsHour
[00:03:17.630]and on NPR's All
[00:03:19.832]David has a gift for bringing
[00:03:22.769]with the spirit of our times,
and quiet passion.
[00:03:27.006]His current book, The
Road to Character,
[00:03:29.075]explores the road to
a deeper inner life
[00:03:31.578]and explains why selflessness
leads to greater success.
[00:03:35.348]His previous books
include The Social Animal,
[00:03:37.817]On Paradise Drive,
and Bobos in Paradise.
[00:03:41.187]David worked at The Wall
Street Journal for nine years,
[00:03:43.489]and has written for
The New Yorker, Forbes,
[00:03:45.592]and The Washington Post,
along with other periodicals.
[00:03:48.728]This evening, after his remarks,
[00:03:50.430]you will have the opportunity
to ask questions via Twitter,
[00:03:53.433]using the hashtag
[00:03:56.069]Ushers will also be
available in the aisles
[00:03:57.937]to collect your other questions
and bring them to the stage.
[00:04:01.107]The title of tonight's
[00:04:03.543]It's Better Than It
Looks: Election 2016.
[00:04:06.846]Let's give a rousing Nebraska
welcome to David Brooks.
[00:04:21.226]DAVID BROOKS: Thank you.
[00:04:29.302]I will always be
grateful to Nebraska
[00:04:31.137]for letting me miss
that damn debate.
[00:04:35.541]And I thank you for the vote
of confidence that I'm...
[00:04:38.711]The fact that you're
here means you think
[00:04:40.179]I'm more interesting than Mike
Pence and Tim Kaine, so...
[00:04:49.389]Now, I'm gonna talk about
the nation and politics
[00:04:53.593]and especially the
character of the nation.
[00:04:56.329]And you should know I just
wrote a book on character.
[00:04:59.065]And when I talk about the
character of the country
[00:05:00.833]and the character
of the people in it,
[00:05:02.535]I don't wanna seem like
I'm on a high horse.
[00:05:05.071]And you should know that
writing a book on character
[00:05:07.674]doesn't actually give
you good character.
[00:05:10.977]Reading a book on character
[00:05:12.211]doesn't actually give
you good character.
[00:05:15.415]Buying a book on
[00:05:19.185]does give you...
[00:05:21.721]And no, I'm no paragon.
[00:05:23.089]I started out sort of
emotionally and morally shallow.
[00:05:27.126]My parents were sort of lefties
in New York City in the '60s
[00:05:30.930]and they took me to what the
hippies would call a be-in,
[00:05:34.467]where hippies would
go just to be.
[00:05:37.203]And one of the things they
did was they set a garbage can
[00:05:39.439]on fire and threw
their wallets into it
[00:05:40.973]to demonstrate their liberation
[00:05:42.308]from money and material things.
[00:05:44.277]And I was five years old
[00:05:45.678]and I saw a $5 bill on
fire in the garbage can,
[00:05:49.282]and so I broke from the
crowd, reached into the fire,
[00:05:51.017]grabbed the money, and ran away.
[00:05:54.220]And that was sort of my
first step over to the right.
[00:06:02.161]And then when I was 18,
the admissions officers
[00:06:04.163]at Columbia, Brown, and
Wesleyan decided I should go
[00:06:06.599]to the University of Chicago,
[00:06:09.902]which others have
called a Baptist school
[00:06:13.139]where atheist professors
teach Jewish students
[00:06:15.074]St. Thomas Aquinas.
[00:06:19.479]At Chicago I had a joint major
in philosophy and celibacy.
[00:06:27.353]I learned to do what
all college students,
[00:06:28.788]I presume, here learn to do,
[00:06:29.989]which is how to dominate
[00:06:31.591]while doing none of the reading.
[00:06:34.794]But I still didn't,
[00:06:36.929]didn't rise to a life
of higher pleasures.
[00:06:39.732]I moved to New
York, my hometown.
[00:06:41.701]I tried to hang out
with those fancy,
Upper East Side ladies.
[00:06:47.306]If you see them,
they're so slender
[00:06:48.374]they don't actually have thighs,
[00:06:49.575]they just have one calf
on top of the other.
[00:06:53.012]And they're usually
married to these old guys
[00:06:55.681]who have decided they
made a billion dollars,
[00:06:58.017]and so they've decided
to just not die.
[00:07:02.054]And so they hire squads
of personal trainers,
[00:07:04.524]and they're popping
Cialis like breath mints,
[00:07:06.559]and they're running
around Central Park.
[00:07:08.628]And you see them
just zooming by you.
[00:07:10.229]They're like 94 years old,
[00:07:11.697]they've shrunk down
to 80 pounds, 4'6".
[00:07:14.700]It's like being passed
by a little iron Raisinet
[00:07:17.170]as they go by you.
[00:07:22.208]And then I became a
[00:07:25.044]at The New York Times,
[00:07:26.512]a job I liken to being
the chief rabbi at Mecca.
[00:07:30.683]Then I moved out to the suburbs
[00:07:32.718]and tried to realize
the American dream.
[00:07:34.554]Again, not super deep.
[00:07:35.655]I bought the big Viking stove
[00:07:37.790]that looks like a
nickel-plated nuclear reactor,
[00:07:40.059]a subzero refrigerator,
[00:07:42.295]'cause zero just
wouldn't be cold enough.
[00:07:45.665]I used to shop at these
progressive grocery stores
[00:07:48.367]like Whole Foods
and Trader Joe's
[00:07:50.002]where all the cashiers
look like they're on loan
[00:07:52.104]from Amnesty International.
[00:07:55.041]My favorite section
there is the pretzels
[00:07:56.909]and potato chips section.
[00:07:59.078]They actually can't serve
those kind of vulgar snacks
[00:08:01.047]in the snack food section.
[00:08:02.481]They have instead all
these seaweed-based snacks,
[00:08:05.051]which is for kids who come
home and say, "Mom, Mom,
[00:08:07.753]"I want a snack that'll help
prevent colorectal cancer."
[00:08:10.590]And they get that.
[00:08:13.693]And so I was still not
leading a deep life.
[00:08:20.666]I got a little older.
[00:08:22.101]I actually found I got
a little more feminine.
[00:08:24.537]I'm the only male who's ever
read that book Eat, Pray, Love.
[00:08:30.309]By page 123 I was
[00:08:36.948]And then finally faith came in.
[00:08:39.452]But my first faith was
more of a judgmental god.
[00:08:42.788]I thought I was gonna be damned
[00:08:44.023]to my own personal form of hell,
[00:08:45.892]which would be playing Twister
in eternity with Ted Cruz.
[00:08:52.899]And so this was sort of
the trajectory I was on.
[00:08:56.102]Not a good one.
[00:08:57.870]But occasionally we
are handed events
[00:09:00.806]that sorta lift you up.
[00:09:04.477]And I had an event.
[00:09:05.511]I do a show called The NewsHour
[00:09:07.813]with a guy named Mark Shields.
[00:09:09.548]Our segments is called
Shields and Brooks.
[00:09:11.651]We wanted to call
it Brooke Shields,
[00:09:12.685]that would've been better.
[00:09:17.290]But I was driving home,
this was about 10 years ago,
[00:09:19.792]to my home which was
then in Maryland.
[00:09:22.361]And I drove, it was
a summer afternoon,
[00:09:25.131]and I drove home and I
pulled into the driveway.
[00:09:28.167]The driveway wrapped
around the house
[00:09:29.402]and looked into the backyard.
[00:09:31.304]And my kids, who were
then 12, nine, and four,
[00:09:34.307]had one of those
supermarket plastic balls,
[00:09:37.176]and they were kicking
it up in the air
[00:09:39.178]and they were racing
across the yard
[00:09:41.447]to try to be the first
one to get to it.
[00:09:43.816]And they were laughing
and they were tumbling
[00:09:45.551]over each other and
they were giggling.
[00:09:48.888]And so I just came home and
unexpectedly was confronted
[00:09:52.825]with this tableau of
perfect family happiness.
[00:09:56.529]And it was like one of those
perfect summer evenings.
[00:09:58.264]The sun was coming
through the trees
[00:09:59.498]and the grass somehow
[00:10:02.301]And it was one of those moments.
[00:10:04.337]I just sat there staring at
it through the windshield.
[00:10:07.640]It was one of those moments
when life and time are suspended
[00:10:11.444]and reality sorta spills
outside its boundaries
[00:10:14.180]and you get confronted
with the happiness and joy
[00:10:17.483]that you don't really deserve.
[00:10:20.519]And those moments, which
are moments of grace,
[00:10:24.323]they sorta crack open a shell
and you feel a higher pleasure
[00:10:26.892]than you ever get
from anything at work,
[00:10:29.161]and you wanna be worthy
of those moments.
[00:10:32.832]At that moment, something
about the spirit sorta swells.
[00:10:37.770]And so that's the kinda moment
that sorta lifts you up.
[00:10:40.940]Another moment happens to me
on Thursday nights in D.C.
[00:10:43.709]or about twice a week, in
fact, last night in D.C.
[00:10:46.312]I have some friends named Kathy
and David who are married,
[00:10:49.382]and they have a kid who has a
son in a public school in D.C.
[00:10:54.220]And he had a friend who came
[00:10:55.421]from sort of a
[00:10:56.689]Dad had split, Mom had
health and drug issues.
[00:10:59.625]And so there was no
place to sleep at home,
[00:11:01.293]there was no food at home.
[00:11:02.862]And they said to this kid,
[00:11:05.131]"You can come stay with
us when you need to.
[00:11:07.233]"You can have food
at our house."
[00:11:09.335]And then that kid had a friend
[00:11:10.803]who was in the same situation
and that kid had a friend.
[00:11:13.239]And now when you go to
Kathy and David's house,
[00:11:15.875]in the basement there are
a bunch of mattresses,
[00:11:18.344]and there are kids
[00:11:21.414]and there are kids eating
them out of house and home.
[00:11:24.617]And when you go over to
dinner as I did last night,
[00:11:27.386]they're serving Spike's chicken,
[00:11:29.488]and there are just 15
or 20 poor teenagers.
[00:11:34.527]And it is the warmest possible
place you could possibly be.
[00:11:38.297]And the thing they give to us,
[00:11:40.166]the thing we give to them is
that people are going around,
[00:11:43.269]they're sharing their
hopes, their dreams,
[00:11:46.138]they're affirming each other
[00:11:47.440]in what they're
trying to do in life.
[00:11:49.942]And the thing we give to
them is we give them the gift
[00:11:52.311]of receiving their gifts.
[00:11:55.381]So there's always music around.
[00:11:57.516]There's a kid named Ed.
[00:11:58.784]He reads poetry off
his little phone.
[00:12:01.520]There's a woman named
Casari who just has a voice
[00:12:03.489]that sounds like New
Orleans jazz in the '20s.
[00:12:05.758]She's about 18.
[00:12:08.394]There's a woman named Samara
who shows her photographs.
[00:12:13.499]And you just receive them,
serve as their audience.
[00:12:17.002]And the thing they
give to us is that
[00:12:19.839]in the adult world there's
normally some emotional distance
[00:12:22.308]as we greet each other.
[00:12:24.176]But they just say,
"No, we hug here."
[00:12:27.813]And they hug and they embrace
and they hang all over you,
[00:12:30.716]and they turn to you like
flowers turning toward the sun.
[00:12:34.653]They turn for love.
[00:12:37.823]And it's just
[00:12:40.493]every time I go to that house.
[00:12:42.695]I have an acquaintance
named Bill Millican
[00:12:44.263]who's worked with young
people for 50 years.
[00:12:48.367]He's often asked, "Well,
what programs work
[00:12:50.870]"to turn around young lives?"
[00:12:53.072]And he says, "In 50 years I
still haven't seen one program
[00:12:56.342]"change one kid's life.
[00:12:58.677]"What changes people is
relationships and love.
[00:13:02.047]"It's someone willing to
walk through the shadow
[00:13:03.782]"of the valley of
adolescence with a kid,
[00:13:06.519]"who loves them week after
week, month after month."
[00:13:09.788]Emerson said, "Souls are
not saved in bundles,
[00:13:11.757]"they're saved one at a time."
[00:13:14.193]And at these meals, again,
there's these moments
[00:13:16.328]of touching something
African American kids
[00:13:24.937]there's just something lifting.
[00:13:28.140]And then the final experience
I'll mention happens
[00:13:32.111]to me sometimes
when I'm working.
[00:13:35.314]I read a book when I was seven
called Paddington the Bear
[00:13:38.083]and decided I wanted
to become a writer.
[00:13:40.786]I remember in high
school I wanted
[00:13:41.921]to date this girl named Bernice.
[00:13:43.422]She dated some other guy.
[00:13:44.757]And I remember thinking,
"What is she thinking?
[00:13:47.059]"I write way better
than that guy."
[00:13:50.563]And so those were my values.
[00:13:54.433]And now I have a
column in The Times.
[00:13:55.968]I tell college students,
[00:13:57.236]"Imagine having a paper
due in three days,
[00:13:59.572]"and then imagine that's
the rest of your life."
[00:14:01.574]That's what I do.
[00:14:04.510]But what I tell my students,
and they don't listen to me,
[00:14:08.147]is that by the time you
sit down at the keyboard,
[00:14:09.848]your column, or your
essay, should be 80% done.
[00:14:14.653]Writing is not about
typing on the keyboard.
[00:14:16.388]It's about structure
[00:14:19.291]And I have a really bad memory,
so I write everything down.
[00:14:23.529]And for my columns,
I'll 200 or 300 pages
[00:14:25.531]of research material
which I've marked up.
[00:14:28.033]And for me the process
of writing is not typing.
[00:14:30.669]What I do is I organize
all these papers
[00:14:32.271]into piles on the floor
of my living room,
[00:14:34.540]and each pile is a
paragraph in my column.
[00:14:38.077]And so the process of
writing is crawling around
[00:14:40.412]on the floor of my living
room, arranging my piles.
[00:14:44.283]And there are some moments when
the ideas are coming to me,
[00:14:49.221]and things are happening,
I'm moving the piles,
[00:14:54.326]that are like the
best part of my job
[00:14:56.595]and that feel almost
like a kind of prayer.
[00:15:00.899]And I'm a believer, with others,
that there are four levels
[00:15:04.670]of happiness that
we can experience.
[00:15:07.306]The first is material pleasure,
good food, nice clothing.
[00:15:11.543]The second is ego and
[00:15:13.512]having some success,
winning some status.
[00:15:16.282]The third is generativity,
[00:15:18.684]the pleasure we get from
giving back to our community.
[00:15:21.720]And the fourth is transcendence,
[00:15:26.759]those moments in life
when the self falls away
[00:15:29.295]and you feel a deep,
[00:15:32.464]with a cause, a truth,
a person, a home, a god,
[00:15:35.734]or the cosmic order.
[00:15:38.570]And I've talked about
these three moments,
[00:15:41.340]and what they all are is
they're moments of intimacy.
[00:15:45.344]First, intimacy with family,
[00:15:48.447]intimacy with a community,
[00:15:50.749]and intimacy at work,
with a vocation.
[00:15:54.520]And I've talked
about these moments
[00:15:56.021]because I think they are big,
important, swelling moments,
[00:15:58.891]but mostly because
it's a lead-in
[00:16:00.959]to talking about this election,
[00:16:03.462]'cause I think we have
a problem of intimacy.
[00:16:07.499]Or to put it in a
more social sphere,
[00:16:09.435]we have a crisis of solidarity,
a crisis of community
[00:16:13.372]that undergirds a lot
of our other problems,
[00:16:16.709]problems like polarization,
poverty, widening inequality,
[00:16:21.313]our inability to compromise
and govern ourselves.
[00:16:25.284]In the social sphere there's
a lack of connection.
[00:16:28.987]There's first a lack
of social trust.
[00:16:31.757]A generation ago, most
Americans said they could trust
[00:16:33.759]the people around them.
[00:16:35.394]Now only 1/3 do, and
only 19% of Millennials.
[00:16:39.298]People are living much
more lonely lives.
[00:16:41.700]A generation ago only 8%
of Americans lives alone.
[00:16:44.403]Now 28% live alone.
[00:16:46.205]There are more American
households with dogs
[00:16:48.507]than with children now.
[00:16:51.710]Decline in marriage.
[00:16:53.912]The majority of American
children born to women
[00:16:55.581]under 30 are born
to single moms.
[00:16:58.417]Decline in friendship.
[00:17:00.419]A generation ago, most
people could list five or six
[00:17:02.888]close friends with whom
they shared everything.
[00:17:05.523]Now the average poll
[00:17:07.326]"I have two or three
[00:17:09.261]And the number of people who
say they have no close friends
[00:17:11.964]has risen from 10 to
25% of the population.
[00:17:16.468]Among Americans over 45, 35%
suffer from chronic loneliness.
[00:17:22.074]The fastest growing religious
group is non-affiliated.
[00:17:25.210]The fastest growing political
party is non-affiliated.
[00:17:28.714]There's an epic rise in suicide,
[00:17:31.150]which is a mark of loneliness.
[00:17:33.118]Since 1999, suicide
rates have been spiking.
[00:17:36.889]And right now 25% more
Americans die from suicide
[00:17:39.691]than from auto accidents.
[00:17:42.928]And so that intimacy
that we experience
[00:17:45.230]at our best moments is
[00:17:48.167]in our social sphere.
[00:17:51.336]Now, I wrote in the first half
of 2016, last half of 2015
[00:17:55.240]about eight million columns
[00:17:56.742]about why Donald Trump would
not be the Republican nominee.
[00:18:00.946]I'm remember thinking,
"The guy's gonna be driving
[00:18:02.481]"down Pennsylvania Avenue
having taken the oath of office,
[00:18:04.483]"I'll still be writing 'Don't
worry, this will not happen.'"
[00:18:11.857]So I've spent the last seven
months trying to figure out
[00:18:14.259]why I got that wrong,
traveling all around America,
[00:18:17.729]especially to Trump or
red parts of the country,
[00:18:20.532]trying to figure
out what's going on.
[00:18:23.602]And I have to tell you,
[00:18:24.837]it has not been a
[00:18:27.606]Wherever you go,
there are healers.
[00:18:29.374]There are people
[00:18:31.176]I was in a little
[00:18:32.878]a little triangle
between three freeways,
[00:18:35.380]in a little Latino
[00:18:36.682]with no after-school program,
[00:18:38.383]so this young woman comes
down from New England,
[00:18:40.419]creates an after-school
program with 1,400 kids.
[00:18:44.223]I was on a Navajo
reservation in New Mexico.
[00:18:46.825]A couple comes down
[00:18:48.560]they create a drug
[00:18:50.229]for 60 year old ex-cons.
[00:18:53.899]Not glamorous work.
[00:18:55.767]And the day I visited them,
[00:18:56.969]they have $17 in
their bank account.
[00:19:00.472]And so you see these healers,
[00:19:02.875]but you also see gaps
in society opening wide.
[00:19:08.113]Struck everywhere I went by
the levels of opiate addiction,
[00:19:11.483]which is just a slow-motion
form of suicide.
[00:19:15.287]Struck by how many people would
talk about feeling betrayed,
[00:19:19.224]betrayed by their jobs,
betrayed by their government,
[00:19:21.627]betrayed by their
dads who split,
[00:19:23.595]betrayed by husbands and wives.
[00:19:25.898]It's as if people once
felt that they lived
[00:19:28.400]in a web of giving and getting.
[00:19:30.903]I give to you, you give to me.
[00:19:32.137]I give to my job,
my job gives to me.
[00:19:33.906]I give to my government,
my government gives to me.
[00:19:36.441]And they feel that the basic web
[00:19:37.943]of getting and giving
has been betrayed
[00:19:40.178]and the basic systems of
life have been betrayed.
[00:19:44.316]I was struck by how much
loss of dignity you find
[00:19:46.618]in those conversations,
a sort of moral injury,
[00:19:51.189]that a lot of people could say,
[00:19:52.891]"Hey, I'm not the
richest person on earth.
[00:19:55.360]"I'm not the most
famous person on earth.
[00:19:57.629]"But I can be counted on.
[00:19:59.798]"I'm responsible to
people around me.
[00:20:01.500]"I show up, I do what
I'm supposed to do,"
[00:20:03.735]and there's a
respectability in that.
[00:20:06.471]And so many of those,
[00:20:08.574]that code has been
[00:20:11.710]by the code of reality TV,
[00:20:13.412]the code of Here
Comes Honey Boo-Boo,
[00:20:15.380]which says if you're not famous,
[00:20:17.015]if you haven't
become a celebrity,
[00:20:18.483]if you haven't made it rich
fast, somehow you're invisible.
[00:20:22.588]And I found a lot of
people feeling invisible.
[00:20:26.258]And all of these problems are
exacerbated along class lines.
[00:20:31.797]It's used to be that
college educated families
[00:20:34.633]looked basically the same.
[00:20:37.502]Little differences in
income, but not big.
[00:20:40.205]Now they live in
[00:20:42.874]10% of kids with college
educated moms grow up
[00:20:45.644]outside of marriage.
[00:20:47.279]70% of kids with
non-college moms grow up
[00:20:50.382]outside of marriage.
[00:20:51.950]College educated people
marry more, they vote more,
[00:20:55.120]they donate blood more, they're
1/3 less likely to be obese,
[00:20:59.024]1/3 less likely to smoke.
[00:21:01.526]College educated parents
spend an hour more a day
[00:21:03.962]actively raising their kids.
[00:21:05.664]College educated parents
invest, on average,
[00:21:08.200]$5,300 per kid in
activities every year.
parents can't afford that.
[00:21:16.642]So the kids of college
educated people are now more
[00:21:19.478]than twice as likely to
play high school sports,
[00:21:22.147]twice as likely to be captain
of their sports teams.
[00:21:25.250]And so you see this
chasm opening up.
[00:21:30.322]And what's happened is that
our politics has caught up
[00:21:33.325]with our society.
[00:21:35.093]The chasm in society, the
fragmentation of society
[00:21:38.730]is now reflected
in our politics.
[00:21:41.566]What we began to see in
the Republican primaries,
[00:21:44.503]is that some Republican
candidates would do well
[00:21:47.039]in areas with more education
and rich in social capital
[00:21:49.941]where there were
[00:21:51.543]John Kasich, Ted
Cruz, Marco Rubio.
[00:21:54.713]Donald Trump always
did well in places
[00:21:56.848]with low social capital
and less education.
[00:22:00.552]In the general election,
[00:22:01.787]college educated people
are voting for Clinton
[00:22:04.556]Less college educated
people are voting for Trump.
[00:22:07.826]As he screamed at one rally,
"I love the poorly educated."
[00:22:13.098]And with that has become
a fundamental shift
[00:22:15.667]in what we talk about.
[00:22:17.369]Campaigns is not
only left and right.
[00:22:19.237]It's about what is the
subject of this debate.
[00:22:22.140]And we used to have a debate
about the size of government.
[00:22:29.548]and that was our core debate
in the '90s and in the '80s.
[00:22:33.485]But now it's between
open and closed,
[00:22:35.854]or open and controlled.
[00:22:38.123]On the one side are those
who feel the tailwinds
[00:22:40.392]of globalization and the
meritocracy pushing them up,
[00:22:45.664]who favor open
trade, open borders,
open social mores.
[00:22:50.902]And on the other side are
those who feel the headwinds
and the meritocracy
[00:22:54.606]blasting in their faces,
[00:22:56.875]who favor controlled
trade, controlled borders,
[00:22:58.877]controlled American culture,
and traditional social mores.
[00:23:03.381]And so the most important
[00:23:06.551]is between the
well-educated America marked
[00:23:08.787]by economic openness,
traditional family structures,
[00:23:11.089]high social capital, high
trust in institutions,
[00:23:14.526]and the less-educated
[00:23:16.027]by economic insecurity,
anarchic family structures,
[00:23:19.898]fraying social fabric,
and a pervasive sense
[00:23:22.534]of betrayal and distrust.
[00:23:27.439]And that's propelled
the two candidates,
[00:23:31.309]who are both
[00:23:34.780]They're both about 57%
[00:23:38.049]Both are waging a
campaign in a context
[00:23:40.418]of negative polarization.
means you don't try
[00:23:44.122]to persuade people
to vote for you,
[00:23:46.091]you just try to persuade
people to hate the other guy,
[00:23:49.561]and that's sort of what
the campaign has been.
[00:23:52.364]And also, since I'm emphasizing
this solitude in society,
[00:23:56.468]both of them seem to
me unusually solitary
[00:24:02.941]socially gregarious creatures.
[00:24:05.110]When you walk up to them,
they touch your face,
[00:24:09.047]they invade your personal space,
[00:24:10.782]they rub their hands around you.
[00:24:13.618]I remember I was once...
[00:24:16.354]I was in Aspen, Colorado.
[00:24:18.390]This was not part of my getting
in touch with America tour.
[00:24:24.563]And I see Bill Clinton
on the sidewalk
[00:24:26.264]watching a high
school jazz band.
[00:24:28.834]And I go up to him and I,
[00:24:30.268]he's telling me about
[00:24:32.771]But because he's a normal
politician and Clinton,
[00:24:35.040]he can't just talk to me.
[00:24:36.608]He has to knead it into
me by touching me a lot.
[00:24:39.744]And because I'm
me, I cower away.
[00:24:43.348]And so we moved like 30 yards
in the course of two songs.
[00:24:50.789]But these two candidates
are not actually like that.
[00:24:58.029]It's gonna become clear I
basically agree with Ben Sasse.
[00:25:07.639]And while I'm in Nebraska,
I should say I think he's,
[00:25:10.442]A, the most promising
Senator in the U.S. Senate,
[00:25:12.878]just in terms of intellect,
but also a brave one.
[00:25:22.821]And so Trump has the solitude,
to me, of the narcissist.
[00:25:27.525]He has no aides, no
strategy, no advisors.
[00:25:30.328]His vocal patterns, he
has a flight of ideas
[00:25:32.397]that zoom off in all directions,
[00:25:34.132]but every eight
words return to self.
[00:25:38.536]And narcissists suffer from
what they call alexithymia,
[00:25:41.840]the inability to understand
the emotions of the self.
[00:25:44.242]And here I'm not
[00:25:45.510]just their general pattern.
[00:25:47.846]They are unable to know
themselves or love themselves,
[00:25:51.283]and so they hunger for
a never ending supply
[00:25:52.951]of attention and
admiration from outside.
[00:25:56.221]They lack an inner criteria
[00:25:57.522]to create what's
right and wrong,
[00:25:59.457]so they demand the external
criteria for their own worth
[00:26:03.528]based on luxury and
appearance and beauty.
[00:26:06.731]They divide the world
between winners and losers.
[00:26:09.401]They can't rest unless
they're in the spotlight.
[00:26:12.671]And, again, this is the general
description of narcissists.
[00:26:15.573]I think it happens to apply.
[00:26:17.509]But there's a solitariness
to somebody caught in that,
[00:26:20.812]and sometimes I feel
very sorry for Trump,
[00:26:23.848]up at three in the morning
tweeting some hostility.
[00:26:28.320]And there's an aloneness.
[00:26:30.422]Clinton has the
solitude of suspicion.
[00:26:34.759]Clinton, her husband
is out there touching
[00:26:36.928]and being vulnerable and
trying to make connection,
[00:26:42.600]but she seems to sometimes
have interpreted life
[00:26:45.503]as a battlefield
[00:26:47.238]and is gonna put up a
preemptive defensive wall.
[00:26:50.375]And maybe that's borne
out of the reality
[00:26:52.010]of what her life is like,
[00:26:53.511]but it does mean there's
no media contact.
[00:26:57.115]It does mean there's
very little contact
[00:26:58.583]with a lot of
[00:27:00.018]who would naturally
be her friends.
[00:27:02.354]It does mean there's often a
brittleness when challenged
[00:27:06.291]and just a closedness
[00:27:08.393]so we don't often know
what she's thinking.
[00:27:11.363]I don't know what
she does for fun.
parts of normal life
[00:27:14.632]that she has closed behind
the walls of protection,
[00:27:17.769]and it has often come
back to hurt her.
[00:27:19.904]In Bill Clinton's
[00:27:21.373]the Whitewater scandal
was just brewing,
[00:27:24.075]and a lot of the people
in the administration,
[00:27:26.378]including the president,
said, "Let's not do Watergate.
[00:27:28.813]"Let's just get all
the details out,
[00:27:30.749]"and we'll just have a bad week,
[00:27:31.983]"but let's be open about this."
[00:27:34.886]And she decided, no,
we're not gonna do that.
[00:27:37.188]We're gonna build a wall,
we'll release nothing.
[00:27:40.525]And as a result, there
was an investigator,
[00:27:43.395]and as a result of
[00:27:45.630]there was a prosecutor
named Ken Starr,
[00:27:48.400]and as a result
of that prosecutor
[00:27:49.734]you have the whole
[00:27:52.137]And it was a case where being
closed came back to bite them.
[00:27:57.742]And so it seems to
me we have a country
[00:28:00.178]with a crisis of solidarity,
[00:28:01.413]with segmentation and
solitude and isolation,
[00:28:04.182]and two candidates who
arise out of the country
[00:28:06.651]who are a little
[00:28:08.920]but mostly living in
a political context
[00:28:10.822]where they magnify
[00:28:14.993]And so when I think about
what we do as citizens,
[00:28:18.963]the first thing I think we
do is we wage a campaign
[00:28:23.134]for intimacy, for connection,
[00:28:24.836]for community, and
[00:28:27.539]Now, some of those things you
can do through organizations.
[00:28:32.811]I happen to think there
should be a period
[00:28:35.480]of at least three
months after high school
are expected to do
[00:28:38.917]at least three months
of national service
[00:28:41.686]so a kid from Lincoln could
meet a kid from Long Island.
[00:28:49.294]I think all of us
have a responsibility
[00:28:50.829]to put ourselves in
[00:28:54.332]So if you're a college educated
person from around here,
[00:28:57.235]you could go find a high
school educated person
[00:28:59.037]who's a member of the
NRA, and vice versa.
[00:29:03.041]I think we all have to be in
one organization that puts
[00:29:05.710]into contact with people
completely unlike our own.
[00:29:09.814]I think government can
support these platforms
[00:29:18.389]But more than that, I think
we need a change in culture.
[00:29:21.659]And so I've been thinking
we need a new anthropology.
[00:29:24.462]We need to shift the culture.
[00:29:26.464]We can't have political repair
[00:29:27.832]until we have social,
spiritual, and some moral repair
[00:29:31.236]of how we talk to one another.
[00:29:34.472]We have to be more communal
[00:29:35.673]in an age that's
[00:29:38.143]We have to use a moral lens
[00:29:39.344]in a culture that's
[00:29:41.846]We have to be more emotional
[00:29:43.081]in a culture that's
[00:29:46.284]Public discussion has
[00:29:51.589]I'm an emotionally avoidant
middle-aged white guy
[00:29:53.124]who lives in the most
emotionally avoidant city
[00:29:54.826]on the face of the
earth, Washington D.C.
[00:29:58.363]But we have to learn
to talk in a mushy way,
[00:30:01.266]because it's the soft
and squishy things
[00:30:02.901]that are actually
hard and practical.
[00:30:06.704]And so as I cover this election,
[00:30:09.307]I've been thinking a lot about
intimacy and how it happens
[00:30:12.377]and how commitment to
each other happens.
[00:30:15.280]And if I learned
anything about intimacy,
[00:30:17.882]believe me, it's not
because I'm good at it.
[00:30:21.052]My friends would tell
you that me talking
[00:30:22.487]about intimacy is like Gandhi
writing about gluttony.
It's not my normal thing.
[00:30:29.994]But I hope I've
learned a few things
[00:30:31.362]from failure and
observation, if not success.
[00:30:35.300]The first is that we're
formed by intimacy.
[00:30:39.204]There were these
orphanages in Nevada
[00:30:41.606]where they decided, this
was back in the '40s,
[00:30:45.376]they wouldn't touch the kids
[00:30:46.678]'cause they wanted to
keep them antiseptic,
[00:30:48.179]so they gave them health care
and food but no handling.
[00:30:51.249]1/3 of the kids
died by age three.
[00:30:53.885]It's literally the
touch of intimacy
[00:30:55.653]that wires the fibers
of the brain together.
[00:30:58.723]And hopefully we
die in intimacy.
[00:31:00.258]I heard the story the
other day of a woman,
[00:31:01.926]an Ivy League grad
who worked at Google,
[00:31:03.861]who married a man
who was looking after
his elderly father,
[00:31:07.298]and he had a stroke.
[00:31:08.533]He was supposed
to last two days.
[00:31:10.535]But this woman
would bathe and care
[00:31:12.470]for this old, elderly man.
[00:31:16.107]And he slipped into a coma,
[00:31:18.042]and she would just
hold him and stroke him
[00:31:19.978]and say to his forehead,
"I love you, I love you,"
[00:31:22.981]and his eyes would open, and
that would be the only time.
[00:31:27.085]And if any of us have
been around someone
[00:31:28.653]who's died in a
bath of family love,
[00:31:31.422]you do feel something
lift spiritually upward.
[00:31:35.994]And so we're born in intimacy,
hopefully we die in intimacy,
[00:31:38.529]and we certainly
prosper in intimacy.
[00:31:42.033]There's a great study
called The Grant Study
[00:31:43.568]that tracked these
guys from 1940
[00:31:45.370]up until the present moment.
[00:31:47.605]Men who had no deep
loves in their lives
[00:31:50.575]were three times more likely
to suffer mental illness,
[00:31:53.378]2.5 times more likely
to suffer from dementia,
[00:31:56.381]made 50% money over the
course of their careers.
[00:32:00.652]Those who have a strong
attachment with their mother
[00:32:03.221]at age 18 months, that's
more predictive than IQ
[00:32:06.190]in how you're gonna do in life.
[00:32:08.226]The author of the
study said it simply,
[00:32:11.029]"Happiness is love, full stop."
[00:32:14.399]And so I've come to think,
thinking about intimacy
[00:32:16.200]amidst an era of isolation,
[00:32:18.870]that there are five key
kinds of intimacies,
[00:32:20.905]five key commitments we make
in the course of our life,
[00:32:24.876]to a spouse and a
family, to a vocation,
[00:32:28.980]to friends, to a
philosophy or faith,
[00:32:32.750]and to a community and nation.
[00:32:35.820]And the fulfillment
of our lives depends
[00:32:37.422]on how intimately we bond
with these five things,
[00:32:40.958]how well we choose
[00:32:42.393]and how well we execute them.
[00:32:45.396]And we think of these five
spheres as kinda different,
[00:32:48.232]but the act of becoming
close to something,
[00:32:50.301]whether it's a god,
whether it's a person,
[00:32:52.470]whether it's a vocation,
whether it's a community,
[00:32:55.340]has some similarities.
[00:32:58.876]First it starts with a glance.
[00:33:01.346]We've all had these
moments in life
[00:33:03.715]where you glance at something,
[00:33:05.717]and suddenly your
life is changed
[00:33:07.952]'cause it seems
[00:33:10.021]I had that moment at seven
[00:33:11.222]when I read that
Paddington the Bear.
[00:33:13.958]I suddenly wanted
to become a writer.
[00:33:16.427]My hero Bruce Springsteen saw
Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show
[00:33:21.299]and said, "Hey, that looks
interesting, that life."
[00:33:24.335]There's a scientist
named E. O. Wilson,
[00:33:25.703]a great, great scientist
who grew up in Florida,
[00:33:28.306]saw some ants walking
across the forest floor,
[00:33:31.576]got riveted by it,
[00:33:34.746]and he studied ants
for the next 70 years.
[00:33:38.349]Sometimes the first glance of
interest takes fantastic form.
[00:33:42.320]I just heard a
story about a woman.
[00:33:43.921]She was getting her hair done.
[00:33:45.590]She was about to move to L.A.
[00:33:47.625]And she walked into
the hair salon,
[00:33:49.293]she saw the stylist, this guy,
[00:33:51.496]and she went to the changing
room, called her mom,
[00:33:53.231]and said, "I just saw
the guy I'm gonna marry."
[00:33:55.967]She sits in the chair,
he's talking to her,
[00:33:58.536]and he says, "What
are you doing?"
[00:34:00.138]And she says, "Well,
I'm gonna move to L.A.,
[00:34:02.473]"but I won't move,
I'll marry you."
[00:34:06.411]And she said, "Will
you marry me?" (laughs)
[00:34:09.213]And he says, "Excuse me?"
[00:34:10.348]And she repeats the question.
[00:34:12.750]And he says, "Yeah," and they've
been married for 25 years.
[00:34:17.588]But that underlines
a core point,
[00:34:19.424]that love is fundamentally
a process of attention.
[00:34:23.494]The opposite of
love is not hate.
[00:34:25.563]The opposite of love is boring.
[00:34:28.433]You may get tired
of chocolate cake,
[00:34:29.967]you may get tired of hearing
[00:34:31.168]that damn Adele
song over and over,
[00:34:34.472]but the thing you really
love never gets old.
[00:34:38.042]So that's the first stage.
[00:34:39.976]Then there's the phase of
learning about the thing,
[00:34:43.414]about learning about your craft,
[00:34:44.882]discovering the enjoyment you
experience doing your job,
[00:34:47.952]learning about a person,
those magical moments
[00:34:49.853]when you're amazed that
neither of you like foie gras.
[00:34:53.891]Oh, that's amazing, we must
be fated for each other.
[00:34:57.094]We don't like to spend
$9 for a cupcake.
[00:34:58.996]Oh, that's amazing.
[00:35:01.699]We must be soul mates.
[00:35:04.869]And that's the second phase.
[00:35:07.839]Then there's the process
of losing control
[00:35:09.574]when you fall in
love with a subject,
[00:35:12.143]you fall in love with a job,
[00:35:14.045]and it just gets
that headlong rush.
[00:35:18.149]There's a great Indian poem,
[00:35:19.617]"Fire runs through my body,
the pain of loving you.
[00:35:22.353]"Pain runs through my body
with the fires of loving you.
[00:35:25.456]"I remember what you said to me.
[00:35:26.657]"I'm thinking of your love.
[00:35:27.625]"I am torn by your love for me."
[00:35:30.361]There's a poet, David
White, who said,
[00:35:32.029]"There's a lovely disarray
that comes with attraction.
[00:35:35.500]"When you find yourself
deeply attracted to someone,
[00:35:38.169]"you gradually begin
to lose your grip
[00:35:39.937]"on the frames that
order your life.
[00:35:42.773]"A relentless magnet draws
all your thoughts toward it.
[00:35:46.744]"Wherever you are, you
find yourself thinking
[00:35:48.579]"about the one who
has become the horizon
[00:35:50.348]"of all your longing.
[00:35:52.817]"When you are together, time
becomes unmercifully swift.
[00:35:56.354]"No sooner have you parted
[00:35:57.755]"than you're already
imagining your next meeting,
[00:35:59.323]"counting the hours.
[00:36:01.592]"This magnetic draw
of your presence
[00:36:06.364]"A stranger you never
knew until recently
[00:36:08.466]"has invaded your mind.
[00:36:10.201]"Every fiber of your
being longs to be closer."
[00:36:14.005]And so there's that
process of getting closer
[00:36:16.908]and more intimate
with the thing.
[00:36:20.111]And then just at the moment
of that headlong rush,
[00:36:23.814]there's the moment
of stepping back,
[00:36:26.150]when you think, "What
the heck is going here?"
[00:36:27.885]And that's the fourth
stage of intimacy.
[00:36:30.187]Am I really ready to
marry this person?
[00:36:32.456]Am I really ready
to go to law school?
[00:36:34.659]Am I really ready to
join the Marine Corps?
[00:36:36.294]Am I really ready to allow
my life to be transformed
[00:36:39.697]by God when I don't know
what he's gonna ask of me?
[00:36:42.767]And that's the moment of pause.
[00:36:45.436]And then's when the
flow-o-matic comes out,
[00:36:47.438]when you start
imagining all the sins
[00:36:48.940]of the person you're about
to become committed to.
[00:36:52.510]She seems nice, she doesn't
know how to pronounce Goethe.
[00:36:53.978]That's a problem for me.
[00:36:57.181]You start doing
all the narratives
[00:36:58.482]of what other lives you
could possibly have.
[00:37:01.385]We have a column at The New
York Times, a love column,
[00:37:03.821]where we notice that men and
women imagine their lives
[00:37:06.490]or imagine their
[00:37:08.726]The men all write
about the past,
[00:37:10.261]about women that got away.
[00:37:12.663]The women write about
potential mates in the future,
[00:37:15.967]and they imagine
extremely specific details
[00:37:18.436]about what those imagined
guys are gonna be like.
[00:37:21.505]Sandy brown hair,
wire glasses, khakis,
[00:37:24.575]drives a Jeep, comes from Iowa.
[00:37:27.044]They've got all these details.
[00:37:31.015]And when you're in
that moment of pause,
[00:37:32.483]you adopt all these
decision making frameworks.
[00:37:35.987]There's that one,
the 10-10-10 rule.
[00:37:38.522]How will I feel about
the decision in 10 hours,
[00:37:40.524]10 months, and 10 years?
[00:37:43.160]In marriage there's the
[00:37:45.930]Marriage is a 50
[00:37:47.498]can I talk to this
person for that long?
[00:37:50.601]There's the psychological
[00:37:54.005]Is this person agreeable
or are they neurotic?
[00:37:57.608]Marry agreeable, avoid neurotic.
[00:38:01.445]And so that's the fourth
stage of intimacy,
[00:38:03.280]when you're just
thinking about it.
[00:38:05.683]But then eventually
intimacy and commitment
[00:38:08.586]and connection requires
a leap of faith.
[00:38:13.090]Because when you join
a community group,
[00:38:16.560]when you get married,
when you have kids,
[00:38:18.162]when you go to law school,
you go to med school,
[00:38:20.431]it changes you into
a different person.
[00:38:23.401]You as your present
self have no idea
[00:38:25.436]what that person
is gonna be like,
[00:38:27.371]and so you have no data
to make that decision.
[00:38:30.775]You just have to
take a leap of faith.
[00:38:33.010]And the connections that
bind us together require
[00:38:34.979]that leap of faith.
[00:38:36.714]My favorite poet, W.
H. Auden, put it best.
[00:38:40.685]"The sense of danger
must not disappear.
[00:38:43.354]"The way is certain,
both short and steep,
it looks from here.
[00:38:48.359]"Look if you like, but
you will have to leap."
[00:38:51.662]And he makes the case you
have to get over the fantasy
[00:38:54.031]of thinking that
staying put is safe,
[00:38:56.734]and you have to get
over the fantasy
[00:38:58.803]that you can
preserve your freedom
[00:39:01.939]if you have no connections,
[00:39:03.374]and this is the fantasy
young people are raised with.
[00:39:05.376]If they limit their connections,
[00:39:07.111]then they'll be free and happy.
[00:39:09.780]But I think those of
us who are older know
[00:39:11.248]that if you keep
your options open,
[00:39:14.418]you'll render your life
impotent and fragmented.
[00:39:18.622]You'll wander about
in the indeterminacy
[00:39:20.458]of your own passing feelings,
your changeable heart.
[00:39:23.728]Your life will be a series
of temporary moments,
[00:39:26.464]not a flow of accomplishments.
[00:39:28.933]You'll never be all
in for anything.
[00:39:30.968]You'll lay waste to their power,
in all directions.
[00:39:35.272]And so eventually the
sixth stage of intimacy is
[00:39:38.042]that moment when
you finally commit.
[00:39:40.678]And this is the crucial moment
in any social connection
[00:39:44.115]and really in our lives.
[00:39:46.183]Everything before is
sort of ephemeral.
[00:39:49.620]You can have love and passions,
[00:39:51.689]but until you make those
commitments to a vocation,
[00:39:54.859]to being a teacher, to a faith,
[00:39:57.461]to a person, to a
friend or a community,
[00:40:00.431]it's all make-believe,
it's sorta amateur.
[00:40:04.902]What is commitment?
[00:40:06.871]Commitment is falling
in love with something
[00:40:09.740]and then building a structure
of behavior around it
[00:40:11.976]for those moments to carry
you through when love falters.
[00:40:15.713]It's making the kind
of extreme promise
[00:40:18.349]that in the Bible
Ruth made to Naomi.
[00:40:22.286]"Where you will go, I will go.
[00:40:24.321]"Where you lodge, I will lodge.
[00:40:26.524]"Your people shall be my
people, and your God, my God.
[00:40:29.860]"Where you die, I will die,
and there I will be buried."
[00:40:33.697]That's a strong promise.
[00:40:37.001]Now, it's our
commitments, our promises
[00:40:38.969]that define who we are.
[00:40:42.139]Hannah Arendt said,
"Without being bound
[00:40:44.275]"to the fulfillment
of our promises,
[00:40:45.709]"we would never be able
to keep our identities.
[00:40:48.145]"We would be condemned
to wander helplessly
[00:40:50.381]"and without direction
[00:40:51.916]"in the darkness of each
person's lonely heart."
[00:40:55.486]It's our commitments that
determine our character.
[00:40:59.757]Character is sorta like a wagon
wheel with all these spokes.
[00:41:03.327]Every time you keep a promise
you make the spoke stronger.
[00:41:06.297]Every time you break a
promise you remove a spoke
[00:41:09.700]and the whole thing
is likely to collapse.
[00:41:12.403]And intimacy is
built by commitments.
[00:41:15.372]It's being reliable,
time and time again,
[00:41:18.809]and becoming close to someone
[00:41:20.077]so you can be counted
upon and trusted upon,
[00:41:22.146]and merging into that person.
[00:41:25.449]Tim Keller, this pastor, said,
[00:41:26.884]"Freedom is not the
absence of restraints,
[00:41:29.053]"but finding the right ones."
[00:41:31.255]We move in life from open
options to sweet compulsions.
[00:41:36.160]The things you chain
yourself to set you free.
[00:41:39.730]And so we only have a ceremony
for one of the commitments,
[00:41:42.099]to marriage, we have
a wedding ceremony.
[00:41:45.202]But every single commitment
we make in life has a moment
[00:41:48.272]when you've totally committed.
[00:41:51.542]And when you've done
that, you've changed it.
[00:41:55.512]And you've turned it into what
I think is the seventh stage,
[00:41:59.116]which is righteousness,
[00:42:00.351]the moments when you
become morally involved.
[00:42:04.388]We all, I think, have a
yearning for righteousness.
[00:42:06.624]We all wanna lead
important, moral lives.
[00:42:08.692]We wanna be good.
[00:42:10.594]We don't really have a
word for this yearning.
[00:42:13.197]The Greeks called it Eros.
[00:42:14.698]Now when we use the word
Eros we just mean sex,
[00:42:17.601]but they meant an attraction
[00:42:20.037]to something greater and more
excellent than themselves.
[00:42:24.041]Dorothy Day, one of my heroes,
[00:42:25.409]called this yearning loneliness,
loneliness to be good.
[00:42:28.145]C. S. Lewis called it joy.
[00:42:30.281]Joy wasn't satisfying
[00:42:32.116]It was having the
highest possible desires.
[00:42:36.120]The way I think of
it is metaphorically,
[00:42:39.456]that there's a part
in each of our souls
[00:42:42.159]that is like a
[00:42:45.362]and this is the part of us
that doesn't care about money
[00:42:47.498]or status or Facebook or
any of the everyday things.
[00:42:51.969]The leopard is the part of us
that feeds off transcendence,
[00:42:55.339]that seeks an awareness of
one's place in the cosmic order,
[00:42:58.742]a feeling of connection
to unconditional love,
[00:43:00.778]to truth, justice,
beauty, and home.
[00:43:03.580]And for long periods
of our lives,
[00:43:05.516]this leopard, this
deepest part of ourselves,
[00:43:07.952]is high up in the
forest, in the mountains,
[00:43:10.754]and you can forget about him,
[00:43:11.989]especially in your 20s
when you're busy working
[00:43:13.624]on your career and getting
married and having kids.
[00:43:16.927]And occasionally you see
this part of yourself
[00:43:18.762]out of the corner of your
eye through the trees,
[00:43:21.632]but maybe you forget.
[00:43:24.635]Then there are spare moments
[00:43:26.070]when you vaguely feel the
soul's, this leopard's presence.
[00:43:31.542]When we make up in the
middle of the night,
[00:43:32.910]you have those bad
thoughts that run into you.
[00:43:34.578]A friend of mine, a poet, says
in the middle of the night
[00:43:36.814]his thoughts come to him
like a drawer full of knives.
[00:43:41.618]And then suddenly
the leopard is there.
[00:43:44.221]Sometimes the leopard can visit
[00:43:46.090]and you become spiritually
awake in great moments,
[00:43:47.992]like I had with my
kids in the backyard,
[00:43:49.626]when you're at a bar,
[00:43:51.095]or when you're with your
friends over a dinner table,
[00:43:53.130]and you just feel
[00:43:56.066]Sometimes in moments
[00:43:58.836]when you've lost a loved one
terrible has happened
[00:44:01.605]and life has carved into the
deepest cavities of yourself
[00:44:04.708]and carved beneath them,
[00:44:06.210]revealing new cavities you
didn't even know exist.
[00:44:08.946]But I think there are moments
inevitable in every life,
[00:44:12.850]maybe more toward
middle or older age
[00:44:15.486]when the leopard
comes out of the hills
[00:44:17.287]and he just sits in the
door frame in front of you,
[00:44:21.058]eye-to-eye and face-to-face,
[00:44:23.160]and he sorta demands
[00:44:26.330]What's your purpose
of living here?
[00:44:28.465]What's your mission?
[00:44:29.800]What did you come for?
[00:44:30.734]Who did you connect with?
[00:44:32.169]Whose life are you
[00:44:35.339]And everybody has to throw
off the mask at this moment.
[00:44:38.242]There's no hiding points.
[00:44:40.210]And the people who have given
those questions know answers
[00:44:44.782]live and die with
that awful knowledge.
[00:44:50.354]And the people who are
deeply committed to things
[00:44:52.289]and who have deep intimacies,
[00:44:54.992]they commit themselves
not only emotionally
[00:44:56.994]but morally to that thing and
a connection to that thing.
[00:45:01.665]And they think
through a moral lens.
[00:45:05.436]They don't say, "Is
this working for me?"
[00:45:08.172]They think, "Is it
working for them?"
[00:45:11.075]They forget themselves,
[00:45:13.210]throw themselves into something
without counting the cost.
[00:45:16.914]They understand, if
only by instinct,
[00:45:18.315]that their true joy is found
[00:45:19.650]on the other side of
unselfishness, not on this side.
[00:45:24.388]They ask, if they're
in a relationship,
[00:45:26.156]"How can I love
this person in a way
[00:45:27.624]"that brings out
[00:45:30.527]If we have a problem
in this relationship,
[00:45:32.563]they say, "My selfishness is
probably the key problem here."
[00:45:37.968]And these are the people
who are so committed
[00:45:40.270]to their relationships.
[00:45:41.705]They're in it when
things are good
[00:45:43.140]and when things are not good.
[00:45:46.743]And it's the seal, the
final seal of intimacy,
[00:45:49.379]I think, is vulnerability.
[00:45:53.217]It's exposing yourself, being
so close to other people
[00:45:56.553]that they see how weak
and how broken you can be.
[00:46:00.491]A friend of mine named Leon
Wieseltier expressed this
[00:46:03.160]in a wedding toast
[00:46:06.697]He said, "This kind of love is
private and it is particular.
[00:46:10.868]"Its object is the specificity
of this man and that woman,
[00:46:14.771]"the distinctiveness of
this spirit and that flesh.
[00:46:18.342]"This love prefers deep
to wide and here to there,
[00:46:20.878]"the grasp to the reach.
[00:46:23.313]"When the day is done
and the lights are out,
[00:46:25.916]"there is only this other
heart, this other mind,
[00:46:29.386]"this other face to assist
in repelling one's demons
[00:46:33.123]"or in greeting one's angels.
[00:46:35.425]"It does not matter
who the president is.
[00:46:38.328]"When one consents to marry,
one consents to be truly known,
[00:46:42.466]"which is an ominous prospect.
[00:46:45.068]"And so one bets on love to
correct for their ordinariness
[00:46:47.905]"of the impression and to
call forth the forgiveness
[00:46:51.141]"that is invariably required.
[00:46:54.111]"Marriages are exposures.
[00:46:56.380]"We may be heroes to our
spouses, but we not be idols."
[00:47:01.919]And the weird thing about that
kind of deep vulnerability
[00:47:04.655]is it strengthens
[00:47:06.356]and it strengthens and finally
caps the intimacy with joy.
[00:47:11.195]Joy happens when the boundaries
[00:47:14.464]of self sorta
begin to fade away.
[00:47:16.934]There's this great
passage in a book
[00:47:20.637]by a guy named
Louis de Bernieres,
[00:47:22.573]and there's an old guy
talking to his daughter
[00:47:26.877]about his love for his
late wife, and he says,
[00:47:31.882]"Love itself is
what is left over
[00:47:34.084]"when being in love
has burned away,
[00:47:37.287]"and this is both an art
and a fortunate accident.
[00:47:41.191]"Your mother and I had it.
[00:47:43.493]"We had roots that grew
toward each other underground,
[00:47:46.830]"and when all the
[00:47:48.098]"had fallen from our branches,
[00:47:50.033]"we found that we were
one tree and not two."
[00:47:54.037]And so that's perfect intimacy.
[00:47:59.509]And that leads to a
kind of joyfulness,
[00:48:02.079]a joyfulness that can make
some people have an inner glow
[00:48:05.249]when they're deeply
connected to their community,
connected to their craft,
[00:48:11.388]they're intensely connected to
their spouse and their kids,
[00:48:15.158]and so that's the sorta
normal happiness we know.
[00:48:18.295]But there's another joy
[00:48:19.529]that actually comes
even in bad times,
[00:48:21.765]but which is still a form
of intimate connection.
[00:48:25.736]I'm a big fan of a book by
a guy named Viktor Frankl
[00:48:28.572]which came out in the '50s
called Man's Search for Meaning.
[00:48:31.408]And Frankl was a psychologist
who was working in Austria,
[00:48:37.080]and he got captured by the Nazis
[00:48:38.348]and sent to a
[00:48:41.118]And he said to himself, "You
know, I've always asked,
[00:48:42.819]"'What do I want from life?'
[00:48:44.655]"And this was not it."
[00:48:47.624]And so he said, "You know,
[00:48:48.859]"I realized that's
the wrong question.
[00:48:50.894]"It's stupid to ask, 'What
do I want from life?'
[00:48:53.397]"The right question to ask is,
'What is life asking of me?
[00:48:57.167]"'What are my circumstances
asking of me?'"
[00:49:00.203]And he said, "Well,
I'm a psychiatrist
[00:49:01.605]"in a concentration camp.
[00:49:03.340]"I should study suffering."
[00:49:07.010]And so he decided to study
why some people in the camp,
[00:49:11.281]amid all this suffering,
[00:49:12.783]lived for a long
time and others died.
[00:49:16.219]And he discovered that the
people who lived longer
[00:49:20.657]had a relationship, a deep,
emotional, intimate relationship
[00:49:24.594]with somebody outside the camp,
[00:49:26.563]even if they didn't know if
that person was alive or dead.
[00:49:29.599]They spent their times
talking to their spouses,
[00:49:32.502]mentally, who were outside.
[00:49:34.638]One of Frankl's friends turned
to him one day and said,
[00:49:36.707]"Listen, if I don't
get back to my wife
[00:49:41.378]"and you should see her again,
[00:49:43.647]"tell her that I talked
of her daily and hourly.
[00:49:48.652]"Secondly, tell her I've
loved her more than anyone.
[00:49:52.055]"Thirdly, tell her the
short time I've been married
[00:49:54.224]"to her outweighs everything,
[00:49:56.993]"even all we have
gone through here."
[00:50:00.330]Another of the people he ran
into was this young woman
[00:50:02.466]who was up in a sick
bed in the infirmary,
[00:50:05.202]and she was dying of illness,
[00:50:07.571]just in this little bed
all alone in a room.
[00:50:10.407]And she said to Frankl,
[00:50:13.043]"I'm grateful fate
has hit me so hard.
[00:50:16.847]"In my former life I was spoiled
[00:50:19.282]"and I did not take spiritual
[00:50:23.320]But in the camp she'd
developed a relationship,
[00:50:26.823]and it turned out this
relationship, oddly, was a tree.
[00:50:30.460]From her bed the only
thing she could see
[00:50:32.195]out the window was this
little chestnut tree.
[00:50:35.399]And she told Frankl,
[00:50:38.468]"This tree is the only friend
I have in my loneliness.
[00:50:41.571]"I often talk to this tree."
[00:50:44.307]And Frankl asked her if
the tree replied to her,
[00:50:47.611]and she said it did.
[00:50:49.112]And Frankl asked her,
"Well, what does it say?"
[00:50:51.281]And she said, "The
tree says to me,
[00:50:53.984]"'I am here, I am here, I
am life, I'm eternal life.'"
[00:51:01.425]That's the fourth
level of happiness.
[00:51:04.094]Even in that concentration camp
[00:51:05.796]to have that connection
with the whole universe.
[00:51:09.499]And so I'm a political pundit,
[00:51:10.967]and this has nominally been
a speech about politics,
[00:51:14.938]and it's veered off in
this weird direction.
[00:51:18.041]But I did it because I
happen to think the problems
[00:51:21.478]afflicting this country
and shaping this election
[00:51:25.916]are deeper than
the inflation rate
[00:51:28.084]or the unemployment rate
or the threat of ISIS.
[00:51:31.521]They have to do with the quality
[00:51:32.856]of our connections
to one another.
[00:51:35.725]And the central
challenge of our time
[00:51:38.128]is a crisis of solidarity
[00:51:43.266]And as I said, sometimes
you can repair that
[00:51:47.704]through programs that'll
bring people together,
[00:51:52.242]but if we're really gonna
understand and repair it,
[00:51:54.744]it's gonna be necessary to dive
in to what exactly it means
[00:51:57.581]to be intimately
connected to each other,
[00:51:59.816]to remind ourselves what we
admire, how it comes about,
[00:52:02.652]how we get there, and to
change our very vocabulary,
[00:52:07.491]and in that way
change our thinking,
[00:52:09.759]and in that way hopefully
inspire a change in behavior,
[00:52:13.797]a change in connection,
a change in nation,
[00:52:16.399]and a change in politics.
[00:52:47.297]MIKE ZELENY: We'll take
questions from the audience.
[00:52:48.999]Again, you may tweet questions
[00:52:50.300]using the hashtag
[00:52:52.502]or write your questions
on notecards provided
by the ushers.
[00:52:55.438]David, thank you for a
[00:52:58.275]a little about the election
and a lot about life.
[00:53:01.411]Our first question tonight comes
[00:53:02.612]from the Vice Chancellor
for Student Affairs
[00:53:04.080]Character Council of Students.
[00:53:06.149]"One of the core building
blocks of integrity advanced
[00:53:08.451]"on the University
of Nebraska campus
[00:53:09.986]"here in Lincoln is citizenship.
[00:53:12.088]"How does voting
[00:53:13.523]"in the U.S. election
[00:53:15.191]"to building character
[00:53:18.895]DAVID BROOKS: So our founders
had a theory about this,
[00:53:22.299]which was that
there are many ways,
[00:53:25.235]there are many character
testing things we do,
[00:53:28.271]but there are some things that
only get tested in politics.
[00:53:32.509]If you get active
in public affairs,
[00:53:36.947]first of all, you
have to pay attention
[00:53:38.214]to people you don't like
and who are unlike you.
[00:53:41.251]And so you have to
develop some empathy.
[00:53:43.353]Second, you have to deal
[00:53:47.157]so you have to develop prudence.
[00:53:50.060]Sometimes you have
to sacrifice yourself
[00:53:52.095]and your sacred honor
for a political cause.
[00:53:58.435]And so you have to
develop the sense
[00:54:00.236]that you're just a
piece of a long chain
[00:54:02.806]in creating a country
and serving problems
[00:54:07.143]that can't be solved
in a single lifetime.
[00:54:10.046]And so I spend a lot of
time on college campuses,
[00:54:13.083]and all my students
wanna be Bono.
[00:54:18.221]They wanna work in
an NGO, go to Africa,
[00:54:20.056]bring bed nets, bring Bikram
Yoga to Syrian refugees,
[00:54:24.527]I don't know.
[00:54:26.096]My joke is I ask my
[00:54:27.764]"What are you doing
on spring break?"
[00:54:29.132]It's, "Well, I'm
unicycling across Thailand
[00:54:31.301]"while reading to lepers,
that sort of thing."
[00:54:35.805]But I'm a big defender
in the craft of politics,
[00:54:41.211]in part because you can
just get more accomplished.
[00:54:46.650]Not caring about politics
is the luxury of those
[00:54:49.019]who live in a healthy society.
[00:54:51.221]If you live in a society
[00:54:52.455]where you don't know
who's gonna shoot you
[00:54:53.890]or you have to pay bribes
every five minutes,
[00:54:55.358]you do not have the luxury
of not caring about politics.
[00:54:59.195]And so I just find the people
I know who are in government
[00:55:02.465]are living life at full and
are completely committed.
[00:55:07.237]I have a close friend, she's
in government right now.
[00:55:12.142]"Best job I'll ever have.
[00:55:13.843]"Every single day sucks.
[00:55:15.478]"The whole experience
is amazingly rewarding."
And that's often true.
[00:55:20.550]MIKE: Thank you.
[00:55:21.951]One of our Twitter followers
would like to know,
[00:55:24.454]"What is life asking from you?"
[00:55:27.457]DAVID: Well, you just heard
a bit of it. (laughs)
[00:55:29.793]You know, I do think...
[00:55:33.329]I think I have a few,
[00:55:34.964]hopefully God is calling
me in a few ways.
[00:55:36.700]One is, as I say, is we live
in an overpoliticized culture
[00:55:42.572]I just don't think we have
enough programs or discussions
[00:55:46.009]of what is grace, what is sin,
how does inner life develop?
[00:55:49.846]And I'm hoping in the rest
of my life to sorta shift
[00:55:52.015]the needle a little back
over in that direction.
[00:55:55.018]And then we all have
[00:55:57.454]And I say, like where
I go to the dinners
[00:55:59.322]on Thursday nights, I hope
to just connect with people,
[00:56:02.692]these kids who are
completely unlike me.
[00:56:06.029]And then the final
thing I'm hoping to do
[00:56:08.031]for the next 20 years
is I teach college,
[00:56:11.067]and we're on a college campus,
[00:56:13.403]the years after college
are just phenomenally hard.
[00:56:17.774]People are in a very highly
[00:56:20.810]when they go through
college and high school.
[00:56:23.146]There are highly educated
people paid to read their essays
[00:56:27.083]and pretend they're
interested in their ideas.
[00:56:31.087]But then they get out of
college and there's heartbreak,
[00:56:33.757]there's a period
there's bad bosses,
[00:56:36.159]every future employer is
thinking, along with Kanye West,
[00:56:39.062]"There's a billion of you,
there's only one of me."
[00:56:43.099]And so I'd like to
somehow counsel people
in the 23, 24 age,
[00:56:47.937]because I see that
group really struggling.
[00:56:51.875]And so we all have
[00:56:55.345]That would be mine.
[00:56:56.379]MIKE: Thank you, keeping in mind
[00:56:57.747]that this is the E. N.
Thompson Forum on World Issues,
[00:56:59.649]"How does the Brexit
[00:57:01.084]"your key point
[00:57:03.119]DAVID: I think Brexit is
of a piece with Trump,
[00:57:05.922]where I said the key debate
[00:57:07.791]is not big government-small
[00:57:09.325]but open versus closed.
[00:57:11.227]And the people who
voted for Brexit,
[00:57:15.298]they think the pressures
[00:57:17.467]are slapping them in the
face and hurting them,
[00:57:20.136]and so they're
gonna take action.
[00:57:22.739]And the one thing I would say,
[00:57:24.073]which I would find
fault with the reasoning
[00:57:27.177]that supports Trump and the
reasoning that supports Brexit,
[00:57:30.013]there's a difference between
conservatism and reactionary.
[00:57:33.817]Being a conservative is being
[00:57:34.884]for gradual, incremental change,
[00:57:36.686]understanding that change
is always necessary.
[00:57:39.489]Being a reactionary is imagining
there was a golden period
[00:57:42.058]in the past and
trying to do things
[00:57:43.793]that'll get you back to it,
and that's what you can't do.
[00:57:54.537]MIKE: We've got a lot of
questions about politicians
[00:57:56.840]on our Twitter feed
this evening, David.
[00:57:58.308]"How can politicians create
a society of intimacy?"
[00:58:01.344]DAVID: I didn't hear the last--
[00:58:02.879]MIKE: "How can politicians
create a society of intimacy?"
[00:58:06.316]DAVID: There are bad ways
that I can think of.
[00:58:12.755]Well, I would say I cover
[00:58:15.592]which is a lot more distorted
[00:58:16.759]than politics probably is here.
[00:58:19.162]But members of the U.S. Senate
individually are good people.
[00:58:25.034]They went into it
because they really cared
[00:58:26.502]about public service,
[00:58:29.405]but they float in little
islands of solipsism
[00:58:31.708]surrounded by all these
people who worship them,
[00:58:35.845]and they don't actually know
their colleagues very well.
[00:58:39.515]Just off the Senate floor
there's a little bar
[00:58:42.719]with these bottles of booze.
[00:58:45.321]When I walk by there
I look to measure
[00:58:47.690]how much has been drunk,
and not very much,
[00:58:52.896]because they're just not getting
together with each other.
[00:58:56.499]And there are very few places
[00:58:57.834]where if you're a
member of Congress,
[00:58:59.302]you can gather with people
from the other party.
[00:59:00.803]The only one place is the
gym where they work out.
[00:59:05.341]And so they're living very lives
[00:59:07.644]where they don't know each other
[00:59:09.879]and they don't meet each other.
[00:59:12.081]And when they get together,
[00:59:13.149]the code of competition
is so brutal
[00:59:16.286]they just bruise up
against each other.
[00:59:18.821]I was at something called
the Civility Retreat,
[00:59:22.325]which was sponsored by
the Annenberg Foundation,
[00:59:24.527]this great hotel in West
Virginia, The Greenbrier.
[00:59:27.130]And I was walking
down the hallway
[00:59:28.398]and this woman was
crying in the hallway,
[00:59:31.801]'cause at the breakout session,
[00:59:33.069]one of the discussion sections,
[00:59:34.637]somebody had attacked
her so viciously,
[00:59:36.839]she had left the room in tears.
[00:59:38.841]This was at the
[00:59:42.512]And so the code of manners has
just changed and deteriorated
[00:59:46.416]and so you've got 100 lone,
[00:59:48.518]it's like the two years
old at the preschool.
[00:59:50.386]What do they call 'em,
solitary, parallel play?
[00:59:52.655]They're all doing that.
[00:59:53.923]And so just breaking
down the barriers,
[00:59:57.293]the barriers of friendship,
would be a big step forward.
[01:00:01.864]MIKE: Okay, David, there's
a new freshman here
[01:00:04.400]at the University of Nebraska
who could've chosen anywhere.
[01:00:06.903]He chose to come here.
[01:00:08.237]He would like to know,
[01:00:09.706]"What would you tell your
freshman self, if you could?"
[01:00:11.841]DAVID: Oh, good question.
[01:00:13.876]Okay, I'm gonna give you
a couple pieces of advice.
[01:00:15.912]I'll give you one.
[01:00:18.181]First, as I
mentioned, the years,
[01:00:21.117]I'm gonna emphasize the
years out of college.
[01:00:24.887]They're gonna suck. (laughs)
[01:00:27.323]There's gonna be real hardship.
[01:00:29.993]So one of the things
I find my students do
[01:00:32.862]is they overvalue
[01:00:37.867]and they overvalue work and
they undervalue friendship.
[01:00:42.038]And one of my students
put it this way.
[01:00:43.673]He said, "My life is
about putting out fires.
[01:00:47.243]"And sometimes if I have a
paper due, that's a fire.
[01:00:50.913]"If I have to practices
the SATs, that's a fire.
[01:00:55.251]"My girlfriend is
sometimes on fire.
[01:00:59.422]"My friends are never on
fire, and so I neglect them."
[01:01:03.393]But a lot of your college
impact 10 and 30 years out
[01:01:07.497]will be on how your
friends supported you
[01:01:10.533]in the hard times right after.
[01:01:12.769]So working on that
seems to me important.
[01:01:15.538]Second, one thing is I
tell college freshmen
[01:01:17.774]and I tell all college students
[01:01:19.042]is I've seen a lot
of you at age 30,
[01:01:21.878]and at age 30, 70% of you
are gonna be more boring
[01:01:24.247]than you are right now.
[01:01:27.450]And so you're going to
regard the future as a fear,
[01:01:34.323]but especially your first
year out of college.
[01:01:37.727]Your only job that year is to
widen your horizon of risk.
[01:01:42.865]Do something completely crazy,
[01:01:44.400]because forever after you'll
go through life thinking,
[01:01:46.702]"I can handle that,"
[01:01:48.037]and your horizon of
risk is out here.
[01:01:50.239]If you don't do it, your
horizon of risk will be here.
[01:01:54.377]And then two more quick
pieces of pompous advice.
[01:02:01.918]And I don't say this from
any spot of achievement,
[01:02:04.387]but the reverse.
[01:02:06.155]The most important
decision you're gonna make
[01:02:07.790]in life is who to marry.
[01:02:11.961]All the courses you
take in college,
[01:02:13.563]I tell college presidents
this, they don't listen,
[01:02:15.631]it should be about
the marriage decision,
[01:02:17.700]like the literature of marriage,
[01:02:19.202]the psychology of marriage,
the sociology of marriage.
[01:02:22.738]Think about that problem a lot.
[01:02:24.874]And you don't have to
think of it on your own.
[01:02:26.142]Read the masters.
[01:02:27.643]Read George Eliot, Jane Austen.
[01:02:29.145]They'll tell you how to
think about that problem.
[01:02:32.448]And then the final thing...
[01:02:36.385]Well, I'll say,
[01:02:38.321]the final thing I'll
say is we give a lot
[01:02:40.990]of crappy advice to
[01:02:43.092]I may have just given a bunch.
[01:02:47.263]But one of them is
"Follow your passion."
[01:02:50.967]80% of the people who graduate
from college have no passion.
[01:02:53.569]They don't know what
their passion is.
[01:02:55.638]Ask, "What does the world need?"
[01:02:57.106]Don't look within, look outside.
[01:03:06.349]Finally, we tell
students to come up
[01:03:10.453]with their own
philosophy of life.
[01:03:12.855]If your name is Aristotle,
maybe you can do that.
[01:03:16.659]But most of us, we inherit it
[01:03:17.994]from people wiser
[01:03:20.263]So just read a bunch of
[01:03:22.198]whether it's Greek
[01:03:24.834]or Christian philosophy
or Jewish philosophy
[01:03:26.335]or Buddhism or rationalism.
[01:03:28.271]See what one fits so you
have words to describe
[01:03:31.541]what's going on inside and
what's right and wrong.
Thank you, "As a 20 year old,
[01:03:36.112]"I feel as though I'm slowly
watching my generation
[01:03:38.147]"become more disconnected
with each other,
[01:03:40.449]"politics, and the world.
[01:03:42.485]"How can a generation
[01:03:44.987]"raise a generation that
doesn't suffer the same fate?"
[01:03:48.858]DAVID: Well, I think
it's your choice.
[01:03:51.894]As I said, among the Millennials
[01:03:54.130]there are some great things.
[01:03:57.133]In some ways, it's a very
[01:04:00.236]So if you look at all
the social indicators
[01:04:02.605]that went south during
the Boomer years,
[01:04:04.774]they're all going in
the right direction now.
[01:04:07.009]Crime is down 70%.
[01:04:08.377]Domestic violence is down 50%.
[01:04:10.279]Abortion rates are down by 1/3.
is down by 1/3.
[01:04:14.483]Divorce rates are lower.
[01:04:16.686]It's in some ways a very healthy
and responsible generation
[01:04:20.256]and super hardworking.
[01:04:21.924]They're all gonna have
the biggest midlife crisis
[01:04:23.526]in human history
in about 10 years,
[01:04:24.927]but until then.
[01:04:27.563]But I do think the problems
I would worry about
[01:04:31.334]if I were 20 is the
problem of attention span.
[01:04:36.239]I'm not a technophobe
by any means,
[01:04:37.974]but these things are
destroying our attention spans.
[01:04:45.314]And then I would just say,
well, I mentioned the healers.
[01:04:49.051]Where can I go to be a healer?
[01:04:53.189]It's very to easy to think
about having big impact.
[01:04:58.227]You know, be completely honest,
[01:05:00.463]and having a big audience,
[01:05:04.033]but I actually don't know
any of your first names.
[01:05:06.969]And so there's a limit to
how much impact I can have.
[01:05:10.306]And so I teach at a school
with very small classes,
[01:05:13.776]and I go to these dinners,
[01:05:15.011]and I'm gonna set
up this organization
[01:05:16.078]for people in their 20s,
[01:05:17.980]because to really have an impact
[01:05:19.715]you have to know the first name,
[01:05:21.250]you have to have
touched them deeply,
[01:05:23.185]you have to be there
when they're in misery,
[01:05:24.887]when they're in joy.
[01:05:27.223]And I've become a
much bigger believer
[01:05:30.626]in focusing tightly on a
small number of people,
[01:05:35.097]and anybody can do that.
[01:05:37.733]And if you look at the people
[01:05:39.335]who have really risen in
the most unexpected ways,
[01:05:42.271]from extreme poverty, from
drug, from child abuse,
[01:05:45.374]there was always one
person in their lives
[01:05:48.911]that gave them love and that
lifted them and changed them.
[01:05:52.381]And just anybody can do that.
[01:06:02.692]MIKE: "Is there a country or
state that best embodies
[01:06:04.894]"the political environment
where intimacy is strong?"
[01:06:08.030]DAVID: I should say Bhutan, I
think they're very happy there.
[01:06:12.001]I once had a chance to sit
at a lunch in Washington,
[01:06:17.139]of all places, with the
Dalai Lama from Tibet,
[01:06:21.110]and he exemplified it.
[01:06:22.912]He was the most joyful person
you could ever possibly meet.
[01:06:26.916]And he laughed at
[01:06:30.086]And so he just, I was
sitting next to him,
[01:06:31.587]and he just burst out laughing.
[01:06:33.656]And I wanted to be polite,
so I burst out laughing,
[01:06:36.158]and then he would laugh
[01:06:37.293]and I would laugh.
[01:06:38.527]And I'm sorta awkward.
[01:06:40.496]He has this little
canvas Dalai Lama bag,
[01:06:42.698]and I finally asked him, "You
got any candy in your bag?"
[01:06:45.701]And he started pulling out
the stuff from the bag,
[01:06:47.803]and it was all the stuff you get
[01:06:50.005]in the first class cabin
of an international flight,
like a little razor, earplugs,
[01:06:54.710]those eye patch...
[01:06:57.813]But he represented just joy.
[01:07:01.517]My own view on different
governments is that
[01:07:05.721]each country gets a government,
a style of government,
[01:07:09.592]that emerges from its culture.
[01:07:12.395]And so in Scandinavia, they're
very cohesive societies,
[01:07:16.365]and so they have a much more
cohesive, orderly government.
[01:07:19.502]In Russia it's very distrustful,
[01:07:20.970]so they have more authoritarian.
[01:07:23.339]We have this incredible tension
[01:07:24.874]between extreme ability
to create associations
[01:07:27.810]and extreme individualism,
and a high moralism,
[01:07:33.682]and so we've got a government
[01:07:34.884]that's sort of a weird
mixture of things.
[01:07:37.453]But I would say in general,
[01:07:38.654]as you can tell
from the last hour,
[01:07:40.456]I think we swing between
[01:07:43.592]and excessive individualism.
[01:07:45.728]And over the last 40 years
[01:07:46.929]we've swung a little
over in this direction.
[01:07:48.464]We need to pull
it back a little.
[01:07:51.233]MIKE: All right, thank you,
one of our audience members
[01:07:52.601]here at the Lied Center asks,
[01:07:54.603]"Does our media fail us,
the politically uneducated,
[01:07:57.840]"by failing to teach us
the things that matter
[01:08:00.242]"so that we can select
Nah, your media is awesome.
[01:08:10.152]I guess I would say,
[01:08:12.788]again, it's what is the media?
[01:08:19.295]My newspaper and papers like us,
[01:08:21.630]we have big blind spots.
[01:08:24.834]We tend to, I grew
up in New York,
[01:08:27.368]I grew up and I went
to school in a city,
[01:08:29.171]I've spend most of
my life in cities.
[01:08:31.273]I've had to yank myself out
[01:08:32.508]to introduce myself to
the rest of America.
[01:08:34.310]And we have gigantic
blind spots and biases.
[01:08:38.514]But I would say most of
the people I work with
[01:08:41.417]are really interested in
the craft of journalism
[01:08:43.986]and getting it right,
[01:08:45.621]and so a lot of the
biases are unconscious.
[01:08:49.125]But then there are
parts of the Internet,
[01:08:50.626]and certainly my
own family members,
[01:08:52.528]my kids are a little like this,
[01:08:54.196]where it's just one
conspiracy after another.
[01:08:57.533]And conspiracy has become the
lingua franca of the Internet.
[01:09:01.403]And there's some great
stuff on the Internet,
[01:09:02.770]some horrible stuff.
[01:09:04.340]I would say there's, if you
wanna find out great stuff,
[01:09:07.309]you're at the best spot
in American history,
[01:09:12.515]where there's some magazines,
like Medium or The New Yorker,
[01:09:16.886]The Atlantic, that
are producing some
[01:09:18.720]of the best online
forms of essays,
[01:09:21.156]long form essays
that we've ever had.
[01:09:23.692]I always recommend two websites
[01:09:25.261]if you're interested in
finding these things,
[01:09:27.662]one called Arts
and Letters Daily,
[01:09:29.698]and especially one
called The Browser,
[01:09:31.332]which is put out of England,
[01:09:32.734]where they just take the
best essays in the world
[01:09:34.603]in the English language every
day and they link to them.
[01:09:38.207]And if you care,
just go on there
[01:09:39.408]and you'll find
great stuff to read.
[01:09:42.144]But then there's the
flow of Reddit and 4chan
[01:09:44.913]and all of the conspiracy
theories that are
[01:09:47.448]So we're trying to,
we as the media,
[01:09:50.419]are trying to offer
you what we can.
[01:09:53.322]It's up to you to choose it.
[01:09:55.457]It's up to us all.
All right, so you suggested
we're too connected, perhaps.
[01:10:01.163]"Do you think it's
possible that social media
[01:10:03.032]"could connect people
in intimate ways?"
[01:10:06.569]DAVID: Well, people have
done studies on this,
[01:10:08.203]and basically the things
that matter is face-to-face.
[01:10:13.509]And people who use
Facebook, for example,
[01:10:15.778]to arrange face-to-face meetings
[01:10:17.513]and to augment their
friendships, it's great.
[01:10:21.016]But people who use
Facebook as a tool
[01:10:24.353]to mask their loneliness,
[01:10:28.223]So the technology
is simply a tool.
[01:10:31.393]But it's has been a clear
evidence of the research
[01:10:35.030]that having relationships
[01:10:37.499]is not satisfying relationships.
[01:10:40.502]It has to be face-to-face.
[01:10:42.137]Somebody did a study
which illustrated this.
[01:10:44.840]I think it was the
University of Michigan.
[01:10:46.542]They gave a bunch of
groups math problems,
[01:10:49.445]and some of the groups just
met online through Skype,
[01:10:54.350]and some met face-to-face.
[01:10:56.352]The ones who met face-to-face
solved the problems
[01:11:00.389]with no problem.
[01:11:02.391]The groups that met
on Facetime and Skype,
[01:11:04.860]they could not
solve the problems.
[01:11:06.362]They broke apart before they
could solve the problems.
[01:11:09.465]That's because so much of our
communication is nonverbal.
[01:11:13.068]It's through the process
of gesture, tone.
[01:11:16.972]Actually, the thing we don't
think about much is smell.
[01:11:20.476]We're still mammals.
[01:11:23.312]And people who lose
the sense of smell
[01:11:24.813]suffer a greater
[01:11:26.582]than those who
lose other senses,
[01:11:29.084]because we're constantly
sending ourselves signals.
[01:11:31.720]One other gross
experiment on this front.
[01:11:35.424]This was a German experiment.
[01:11:36.892]They took gauze pads, taped
it under people's arms,
[01:11:40.629]and had some of them
watch a horror movie
[01:11:42.264]and some watch a comedy.
[01:11:44.233]And then they had other
[01:11:45.934]who I hope were
[01:11:49.204]sniff the gauze pads
[01:11:51.940]and predict whether the
person watched the comedy
[01:11:53.942]or the horror movie,
[01:11:55.277]and they could predict
way above chance.
[01:11:57.246]They got it right
most of the time.
[01:11:59.782]And so we just need to be
in face-to-face contact,
[01:12:02.418]a real human relationship.
[01:12:05.387]I don't know why I had to
bring in that gauze pad thing.
[01:12:09.692]MIKE: David, one of our
audience members says,
[01:12:11.326]"I'm a public school teacher
[01:12:12.728]"with at least one
student here tonight.
[01:12:14.496]"How do I help create
buy-in to relationships
[01:12:16.665]"with our society?"
[01:12:18.400]DAVID: Part of the problem, I
think, well, one of the things.
[01:12:20.569]I've covered school
reform since the '80s.
[01:12:23.272]1983 there was a thing called
the Nation at Risk Report.
[01:12:26.675]And we as policymakers and
people who write about it
[01:12:29.912]have tried to rearrange
the bureaucratic boxes,
[01:12:33.982]and big schools, small
schools, charters, vouchers,
[01:12:37.986]and it's had relatively
[01:12:40.389]and that's because what
matters in education
[01:12:42.524]is the individual love between
a teacher and a student.
[01:12:45.561]And if you're ignoring
that core relationship,
[01:12:50.332]And so somehow,
[01:12:52.167]and even with the testing
regimes we have in,
[01:12:54.636]the busyness, somehow
there has to be a way
[01:12:57.239]to allow those
relationships to nurture.
[01:13:02.778]And I'll just say two things,
one that's affected me.
[01:13:05.647]I might as well say
it, what the heck?
[01:13:07.683]And the other, which
is more general.
[01:13:11.186]I teach at a college in
New Haven, Connecticut
[01:13:13.856]some of you may have heard of.
[01:13:16.191]And I have my office
hours at a bar
[01:13:20.596]between 9:30 and
one in the morning,
[01:13:22.731]and there'll be 15 students,
[01:13:23.932]we'll have a bottle
of wine or two,
[01:13:25.400]nobody has more than one
drink, and we'll just talk.
[01:13:29.605]And we'll talk about Dostoevsky,
[01:13:32.441]we'll talk about student life,
we'll talk about careers.
[01:13:35.410]But it's a way for me
to get to know them
[01:13:37.079]in a way that's beyond
just in the classroom.
[01:13:40.115]So when they graduate
in years hence,
[01:13:42.117]I keep some of
[01:13:44.753]But it's now considered
like an unsafe space
[01:13:47.389]to have a meeting like that.
[01:13:50.092]And so in order to protect any
thought of any impropriety,
[01:13:54.863]we erase the venue
where we actually get
[01:13:57.966]to know each other best of all,
[01:14:00.502]and we become a little
fearful about that.
[01:14:04.139]And so somehow taking the
time out outside the classroom
[01:14:07.509]seems to me a core part of
creating a real relationship
[01:14:10.312]between teacher and
student, within bounds.
[01:14:13.182]The second thing, I
had a great e-mail
[01:14:16.118]from a veterinarian in
Oregon a couple years ago.
[01:14:19.087]And I was complaining in my
column about how hard it was
[01:14:21.557]to get students to
think about morality.
[01:14:24.893]And this guy, a very wise man
[01:14:26.128]from Oregon named Dave Jolly,
[01:14:29.698]said, "You're never
gonna teach them
[01:14:31.767]"through sermons or lectures.
about their girlfriends
[01:14:36.638]"or their boyfriends
or their grades
[01:14:38.307]"or what they're gonna
do after school."
[01:14:41.343]But then he said, "What a
wise person says is the least
[01:14:45.247]"of that which they give.
[01:14:47.816]"What gets communicated
is the totality
[01:14:49.818]"of their being in
the smallest gesture.
[01:14:52.721]"Never forget, the
message is the person."
[01:14:56.658]And what he meant by that,
[01:14:58.160]when we communicate with each
other, it's not what we say.
[01:15:00.162]It's the small acts of kindness,
[01:15:01.964]the small acts of generosity,
the small acts of empathy
communicate how to act.
[01:15:08.971]And the guy who comes to mind
in this vein is Pope Francis.
[01:15:13.342]So I'm not Catholic.
[01:15:14.877]I don't know what he's done
for the church, pro or con.
[01:15:17.813]But he seems to act in
a way that is admirable.
[01:15:22.084]And in his case the
message is the person.
[01:15:24.786]And I think that can
be true of teachers.
[01:15:27.022]God is now punishing me.
[01:15:31.159]MIKE: Perfect timing.
[01:15:32.628]Ladies and gentlemen, before
David takes his final question,
[01:15:35.163]I'd like to remind each of
you to mark your calendars
[01:15:37.065]for the next
E.N. Thompson Forum.
[01:15:39.001]It will be given by Sonia
Shah on global pandemics,
[01:15:42.037]November 9th at seven p.m.
here in the Lied Center.
[01:15:44.740]We hope to see you then.
[01:15:45.908]And, David, one final question.
[01:15:47.509]Thank you again for
sharing your perspective
[01:15:49.011]with your readers and with
us here tonight in Lincoln.
[01:15:51.346]"Obviously it's too late for
this presidential election.
[01:15:54.216]"Where do we go from here?"
[01:15:58.120]DAVID: So it's easy in
[01:16:00.322]here I'll actually address
the subject of the talk.
[01:16:04.960]MIKE: Thank you.
Why it's better than it seems.
[01:16:10.699]So we have a political problem.
[01:16:11.900]Our political system
is not working.
[01:16:13.969]And we do have a social
[01:16:16.672]But as I mentioned,
[01:16:18.707]our social indicators are
moving in the right direction.
[01:16:22.411]We do have people,
young and old,
[01:16:24.646]who are healers in
[01:16:27.249]We're binding people together.
[01:16:29.885]We have the most innovative
economy in the world.
[01:16:32.454]We're still a magnet for
people around the world.
[01:16:34.823]Believe me, if you travel,
[01:16:36.291]I hope everybody gets
to do some travel,
[01:16:39.695]there's no place you
ever go where you think,
[01:16:42.798]"Well, these people are better
positioned than we are."
[01:16:45.834]It's just not true, we're
still best positioned.
[01:16:48.370]And so while I'm pessimistic
about government and politics,
[01:16:52.941]especially over the
next little while,
[01:16:54.643]and it's been hard to
cover this campaign,
[01:16:57.679]I'm still long-term super
optimistic about the country,
[01:17:01.049]just 'cause of the people you
meet in every town I go to
[01:17:03.952]and the innovation
and the creativity.
[01:17:06.888]Alexis de Tocqueville
came here in the 1830s,
[01:17:10.125]and he found an America
that still is basically us,
[01:17:14.429]the spirit that he found,
the spirit of energy,
[01:17:17.733]of hyperactivity, of openness.
[01:17:22.604]I had no ancestors here then,
[01:17:25.140]but we're still basically us.
[01:17:29.077]And I have such elemental faith
[01:17:31.313]in the culture that's
been handed down to us
[01:17:33.448]that we embody, that
we live out every day,
[01:17:35.417]building new suburbs,
creating new stores,
[01:17:37.753]creating great institutions,
and these things'll be here.
[01:17:41.123]They were here
before we were born,
[01:17:42.324]they're gonna be here
after we're gone.
[01:17:44.092]And they just are
pillars of strength,
[01:17:46.661]some invisible, some
spiritual, some material.
[01:17:49.965]And it's never a
good idea to think
[01:17:53.402]that we're in some sort
of national decline,
[01:17:55.203]'cause we're just not.
[01:18:03.011]MIKE: Thank you.
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