Character

Q&A: David Brooks on Character, Sin, and Rumors About His Religious Journey

Photo courtesy of Random House / RNS

Author David Brooks at home, in Bethesda, Md. Photo courtesy of Random House / RNS

Brooks’ new book, The Road to Character, traces human virtue throughout the centuries, and then profiles a handful of “heroes of renunciation” who he believes serve as models of character. The book has sparked conversation about Brooks’ views on morality, theology, and even his own Jewish faith.

Brooks talked about society’s obsession with selfies, whether we’re too self-absorbed, and rumors about his own religious journey. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

What’s So 'Domestic' About Violence?

How does bullying create and sustain a culture of domestic violence? Photo via Kamira/shutterstock.

I carry a purple purse. I actually bought it three years ago to treat myself to something new. Many women have complimented it, honestly to my surprise. Not that the purse is atrocious, but it does not carry a Gucci, Michael Kors, Coach, Chanel or any other label. It is just a purple purse that fits me and holds my essentials, and sometimes those of my children. Until recently I had not given any second thought to having a purse the color of Barney. Sorry I could not resist.

While reading all of the commentary about professional athletes and abuse, as if they are the only people who offend, I came across a public service announcement for the Purple Purse Campaign. What an a-ha moment. Finally someone gets it. It is one thing to give all of the stats blasting that one out of four women experience domestic violence or that twenty people per minute, men and women, are victims of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner. It is astoundingly painful to know an estimated three women die each day because a “loved one” could not control himself. The facts are. The truth is.

However, as the Purple Purse Campaign purports, domestic violence is also withholding money or limiting financial freedom. It is verbal assault. Domestic violence is hindering access to family and social circles. Intimacy partner violence involves humiliating the victim. It is harassing people via social media, texting, phone calls or emails. Domestic violence or intimate partner violence can be a physical, mental, financial, emotional, sexual or psychological act. In other words, domestic violence is bullying.

Ladies: Need A Pick-Me-Up?

It's Thursday. I'm hitting the back of my closet and have second-day hair. Relate? Good, then this video is for you.

Take a few minutes to remember that our differences — whether it be crooked smiles, frizzy hair, or 6-foot-frame — to others look like character, enviable natural curls, or modelesque stature. You're beautiful. (Yes, you.) 

The clip is also full of good advice, but my personal favorite: "If it makes you feel awesome, wear it." (Do you think that means I can get away with yoga pants at work?)

Election 2012: Concrete, Chameleons, and Clay

One of the common ditches that political candidates fall into is the temptation of a “concrete” character. 

Among other things, one who is concrete holds to views that are supposedly unchanging and non-negotiable, and thus they possess an inability to compromise with those who may have diverse perspectives. A concrete character is often grounded in the belief that she/he “knows” who she/he is, and because of these unbreakable principles will not waver in her/his understanding regardless of the setting and potential consequences. 

In other words, a person with a concrete character is immovable, solid, and resolute, and as a result, nearly impossible to bend or twist. While there is much to be admired in those who display the concrete character, there is also much to be criticized. 

For example, while concrete may be strong and resolute, it is also fixed in time, stiff, and inflexible, and is thus unable to change regardless of conditions, societal advances, and circumstances. Thus, concrete — sooner or later — will crack. 

As the current generation experiences cultural and technological change at a rate far greater than any era before it, those who refuse to be changed by unfolding knowledge and wisdom allow life to pass by while remaining trapped in one place. Therefore, while the concrete character may appear to be one of strength, it is ultimately weak, vulnerable, and unsustainable.  

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