“And we pray that we may live a life worthy of God, bearing fruit, growing in knowledge of God, being strengthened so that we may have the necessary endurance and patience, and always giving thanks to God, who gifts us a share in the inheritance in the kingdom of light.”
I have been reading David Brooks new book, The Second Mountain. Brooks sets up a “two mountain” metaphor to identify the human experience. He asks the question, “Which mountain are you climbing?” You will know which mountain you are on by the quality of your inner joy. The climb of the first mountain is self-focused and bent on achievement, recognition and acquisition. We build careers, reputations, financial security on the first mountain. We measure our value through the eyes of others. Society tells us the first mountain is “The Mountain,” and cheers our climb. Like many, Brooks reached the top of the first mountain and felt empty, lonely and lost. He had the bank account, the prestige, the success, but only surface-deep friendships and far too little soul joy. He had served the world, but not his soul. Many summit the first mountain, and are uninspired by the view. They yearn for something more.
On the Second Mountain success is measured by the quality of your relationships, your ability to maintain inner peace regardless of life’s circumstances, your keen eye for the wondrous, even the mystical, and your willingness to lose your ego for a greater good. On the Second Mountain, you are led by a curiosity to see, experience and feel more. You have always known there was a sacred reality available to you, now you are in hot pursuit of it. On the Second Mountain, you come to expect moments of transcendence where you are stunned by the beauty, the profundity of love that you are capable of, and is expressed by another toward you, and the undeniable proof of your inner suspicion that there is something larger than you at work here—- A creative Spirit of Love, an all-embracing God who not only knows you, but will not let you down. Redemption is assured. It’s hard to even imagine such a reality is possible on the First Mountain. So much we miss in our ego-striving, instead of our soul-searching! On the Second Mountain, one is acutely aware of the preciousness and the too-quick passage of time. Every day is to be savored.
It is the universal human spiritual challenge to live in the world but not of the world. Where the climb of the first mountain is generally an external experience with fleeting, external rewards, the second mountain is an internal “eternal” adventure. Sixteen years ago, I was happily working the switchbacks up the first mountain, believing I was “living the life,” until the pediatric oncologist literally pummeled me off a cliff with the words, “Your child has stage 4 cancer.” Suddenly, everything I thought was important, meaningful and defined me turned to ash right before my eyes. The tragedy was a soul-opener, affording me the opportunity to live a deeper, more meaningful life. I wish I could tell you that I have remained on the Second Mountain, that I experienced my Damascus Road epiphany and never looked back. The truth, there are days and seasons that I find myself right back on the well-traveled path of the first mountain, my ego leading the charge. An interior game of tug-o-war is part of my faith journey. Sometimes the earthly wins feel too good, but they never seem to last as long as we imagine. What I find is that I easily tire, even burn out on the first mountain. Body, mind and soul I crave a spiritual reset, to lose the scales from my eyes and reconnect with the Divine within and all around me.
I and I believe you too, long to follow the intuition of our souls. It is our legitimate superpower and eternal compass insuring we live lives that are sacred, deep and soulful. Instead of fleeting happiness, we crave that supernatural flush of joy that buds at our center and then blossoms outside of us. I don’t think you have to put on the habit and retire to the cloisters to live a soulful life. God calls us to participate in the world, to make it good and sacred by being inspired doctors, exercising our creativity, building families. However, we must continually ask ourselves why we are doing what we do? Is it for the ego or the soul? Are we leaving a footprint of goodness? Recently I visited a woman I greatly admire not long for this world. After living what I would call a “Second Mountain” life, Elizabeth stunned me when she said, “We never love as well or as often as we should.” Herein lies our life purpose and the secret to living a life of meaning: Love well and often.
On the Second Mountain, the pronouns switch from “me” to “we.” Great energy is dedicated to encouraging others. Who knew it could feel so good to give another a leg-up the Mountain. We must lose ourselves and all the ridiculous expectations to find our true selves. If you are wondering which mountain you are climbing, check your inner joy. Do you know that inside out warm flush? Where do you spend the bulk of your time, talent and treasure? Are you listening to that still, small voice speaking truth from within you? How are you with inner peace? Look around, do the people who cross your path know you by your love? Is gratitude the guiding emotion in your daily life? Do you regularly pinch yourself that you get to live this one precious life? Life’s climb is never perfect, but the view from the Second Mountain is something of heaven!
Live in Hope,
I need my life to count for something
Consequential in time, space and to someone,
hopefully a multitude.
That my breaths might have cosmic weight to them.
So much effort has been given to acquisition
of place, knowledge and treasure.
It’s all part of the discovery.
But now I long for that which cannot be measured, only shines.
“Meaning” comes in the giving away—–
Every word of kindness in me, spoken.
My reserves of hope, drained to the very last drop.
Everything I know for sure of God, shared.
All my love spent.
The hope is that at the end, there is nothing left of me,
But an incandescent soul.
And I am free, oh so free
For the next adventure.
The Second Mountain by David Brooks is a great read for anyone who feels like one’s life is running them instead of one’s soul. How do we find balance between the earthly and the sacred? The Second Mountain offers many ways to experience a spiritual reset and embark on a deeper experience of the human spiritual journey we are all on!