David Brooks: Should you live for your résumé … or your eulogy?

Within each of us are two selves, suggests David Brooks in this meditative short talk: the self who craves success, who builds a résumé, and the self who seeks connection, community, love — the values that make for a great eulogy. (Joseph Soloveitchik has called these selves “Adam I” and “Adam II.”) Brooks asks: Can we balance these two selves?

The story of Korah (Qarun), who was a contemporary of Moses puts our pursuit for worldly wealth into perspective.  His wealth made him very arrogant and exultant. The Holy Quran describes it in some detail:

Indeed, Korah was of the people of Moses, but he behaved tyrannically towards them. And We had given him treasures of hoarded wealth so much that the keys thereof would have weighed down a party of strong men. When his people said to him, ‘Exult not, surely Allah loves not those who exult;  And seek … the Home of the Hereafter (by spending in the way of Allah); and neglect not your people in this world; and do good to others as Allah has done good to you; And seek not to create mischief in the land. Indeed, Allah loves not those who create mischief;’  He said, ‘All this has been given to me because of the knowledge I possess. (Where does Allah come in the picture?)’.  …  So he went forth before his people in all his pomp. Those who were desirous of the life of this world said, ‘Would that we had the like of what Korah has been given!  Truly, he is the master of great fortune.’  But those who had been given true knowledge said, `Woe unto you (on what you long for), Allah’s (lasting) reward (in the hereafter) is best for those who believe and do good works; and it shall be granted to no one except those who are steadfast.’  (Because of arrogant attitude of Korah and his persecution of Moses and his followers).  Then Allah (caused an earth quake) and made the earth to swallow him up and his dwelling; And he had no party to help him against Allah, nor was he of those who can defend themselves.   And those who had coveted his position the day before began to say, ‘… it is indeed Allah Who enlarges the provisions for such of His servants as He pleases and straitens it for whom He pleases. Had not Allah been gracious to us, He would have caused it to swallow us up also. Ah!  the ungrateful never prosper.’  The home of the Hereafter. We give to those who seek not self-exaltation in the earth, …And the good end is for the righteous. (28: 76-83)

Accumulation of wealth and power for personal aggrandizement is hell fire, but the same desire to make money to raise one’s family and to serve humanity becomes a great boon for the believer. Indeed actions are judged by their motives.

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