by Skip Broussard Age 73, Dallas, TX I always had a feeling of emptiness in childhood and youth. There were no gray headed gurus in Lafayette, LA, then a small, myopic, French-Catholic community. It offered me very little. Education and career, though absorbing, didn't resemble purpose. I was adrift, but searching. I
“I guess I wrote this book to save my own soul.”Introduction, Adam II
“A person is a product of cultivation. The true self, in this view, is what you have built from your nature, not just what you started out with.”Chapter 3, Self-Conquest
“We can shoot for something higher than happiness. We have a chance to take advantage of everyday occasions to build virtue in ourselves and be of service to the world.”Chapter One, The Shift
“Many of us have instincts about right and wrong, about how goodness and character are built, but everything is fuzzy. Many of us have no clear idea how to build character, no rigorous way to think about such things… What the Victorians were to sex, we are to morality: everything is covered in euphemism.”Chapter Ten, The Big Me
“The answer must be to stand against, at least in part, the prevailing winds of culture. The answer must be to join a counterculture. To live a decent life, to build up the soul…”Chapter Ten, The Big Me
“People do get better at living, at least if they are willing to humble themselves and learn.”Chapter Ten, The Big Me
“The good news of this book is that it is okay to be flawed, since everyone is… We are all stumblers, and the beauty and meaning of life are in the stumbling – in recognizing the stumbling and trying to become more graceful as the years go by.”Chapter Ten, The Big Me
I guess I wrote this book to save my own soul.
About once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner light. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people, and as they do so their laugh is easy and musical, their spirit is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.
An encounter with such a person can brighten your whole day. But I confess I often have a darker thought: It occurs to me that I’ve achieved more career success than I ever imagined, but I have not achieved THAT. I have not achieved their generosity of spirit, or their depth of character or their inner light.
I wrote this book because I wanted to be a bit more like those people. I wrote it because I want to have moral adventures that will end up making me deeper and better. I know reading or writing a book can’t make you incandescent in that way, but I wanted to describe people who had made that journey from shallowness to depth, from fragmentation to integrity, from self-concern to service. I thought I could at least describe the path people took toward that sort of goodness. Then I could try to make my own journey in that direction. I could find others who would take this journey with me.
I also wrote it because I wanted to shift the conversation a bit. We live in a culture that focuses on external success. We live in a fast, distracted culture. We’ve lost some of the vocabulary other generations had to describe the inner confrontation with weakness that produces good character. I am hoping this book can help people better understand their own inner lives, their own moral adventures and their own roads to character.