The Second Mountain – Reading Note

The Second Mountain – The Quest for a Moral Life

the second mountain book cover

The world tells us that we should pursue our self-interest: career wins, high status, nice things. These are the goals of our first mountain. But at some point in our lives, we might find that we’re not interested in what other people tell us to want. We want the things that are truly worth wanting.

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The First Mountain

The first mountain focus on egotistical desires at the expense of connection with others, generosity, compassion and love. Yet when society prioritizes self-interest and freedom people suffer from alienation, adding to the decay of politics and social ethics.

Brooks says that these forms of freedom and self-realization often lead to desolation. Political freedom may be valuable, but freedom as an isolated, general and exclusive goal can lead to an erratic, aimless life without a deep foundation.

Overcoming crises can lead to insight and a larger sense of the meaning of life, such did we learned from Man’s Search for Meaning. When people suffer, their anguish and soul-searching also move them deeply, and, Brooks believed that this will spur them to change.

Suffering often changed us. Transcending such a crisis requires people to let go of their previous selves, reflect deeply and allow a new self to emerge. At this stage, they realize they have changed into better people.

In our struggling through suffering, we might gain self-awareness of our true nature and needs.


The Second Mountain

Life’s second mountain is about connections and dependence on other people. They see self-interest as limited and come to regard giving and loving others as life’s most important activities. “Happiness is what we aim for on the first mountain,”. “Joy is a by-product of living on the second mountain.”

” Happiness is what we aim for on the first mountain but Joy is a by-product of living on the second mountain”

Under the grip of individualism and in pursuit of the first mountain, people aspire to personal happiness. They revere freedom and autonomy and place primary importance on career, money and accomplishment and participation in the consumer economy. People who move from individualism and first-mountain concerns toward the second mountain see the world anew.



Commitments are promises made out of devotion that isn’t conditioned on any specific return on investment. Commitments transform the people involved and provide coherent, well-defined, easily articulated identities. Making serious commitments helps develop and deepen their moral character.


Relationalism and meaningful life

The first mountain places the needs, desires and aspirations of the ego at the centre. The second mountain is relationalist and prioritizes commitments to others and to the community.

Relationalism is less about the reason for its own sake and more about emotion and meaning. Human beings have ruptured society and have invited chronic loneliness, tribalism and conflict into their lives by revering the autonomous individual and ignoring the heart and soul. But now, society is moving away from individualism and toward relationalism, which offers people a way to seek meaning and purpose and to construct a more satisfying way to live.

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Author: Muhamad Aarif

A notorious book addict by night and an oil and gas executive by day. As Mark Twain said, "The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them." So, read, read, and read some more.

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