David Brooks has an outstanding article directed to recent college graduates. He echoes many of the themes I sought (less skillfully than Mr. Brooks) to unpack in Thriving at College. The gist of it is that our culture tells young adults to find happiness inside themselves. Yet true happiness comes by losing yourself in the cause of something greater. This is a biblical principle verifiable by Christian and non-Christian alike (Luke 17:33). Brooks writes:
Follow your passion, chart your own course, march to the beat of your own drummer, follow your dreams and find yourself. This is the litany of expressive individualism, which is still the dominant note in American culture.
But, of course, this mantra misleads on nearly every front.
College grads are often sent out into the world amid rapturous talk of limitless possibilities. But this talk is of no help to the central business of adulthood, finding serious things to tie yourself down to. The successful young adult is beginning to make sacred commitments — to a spouse, a community and calling — yet mostly hears about freedom and autonomy.
“Most successful young people don’t look inside and then plan a life. They look outside and find a problem, which summons their life.”
“Most people don’t form a self and then lead a life. They are called by a problem, and the self is constructed gradually by their calling.”
Today’s grads enter a cultural climate that preaches the self as the center of a life. But, of course, as they age, they’ll discover that the tasks of a life are at the center. Fulfillment is a byproduct of how people engage their tasks, and can’t be pursued directly. Most of us are egotistical and most are self-concerned most of the time, but it’s nonetheless true that life comes to a point only in those moments when the self dissolves into some task. The purpose in life is not to find yourself. It’s to lose yourself.
Read the whole thing.