In 1965, a great book was written by Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik called Lonely Man of Faith.
To summarize in a single sentence, the book emphasized the importance of living your life not for external recognition, your resume, but for internal wholeness, your eulogy.
The two main personality types discussed in the book — Adam 1 and Adam 2 — illustrate the rabbi’s point well. They are a parable about how we might conduct our own lives before it’s too late.
Adam 1 is a profile in self-absorption, an individual devoted to impressing others with his worldly accomplishments. Adam 2 is an enlightened soul who understood what mattered in life. He was a happy and wise man.
Many years have passed since the rabbi shared his insight, but not much has changed with regard to Adam 1. There are far too many Adam 1s running around and too many books written on how to become an Adam 1.
Let’s Do This
David Brooks, one of my favorite columnists for The New York Times, expanded on the Adam 1 and 2 subject in his new book The Road To Character. It got me thinking: At 53, should I write my eulogy now and benefit from living a more inspired life between now and when I sleep with the fishes?
In fact, I did start writing my own eulogy. However, what I thought would be a relatively easy process morphed into a challenging and soul-searching experience.
First, there is the issue of who would actually give my eulogy. This is like choosing the best man for your wedding: It’s a big responsibility, although in this case, it’s not nearly as festive or full of compromising stories. The good news for my eulogizer is that I’ve done most of the heavy lifting in advance.
Second, what should I actually write about myself? Do I have enough of Adam 2 in me? Or has my life been too focused chasing Adam 1? What did I want people to know about me that really mattered?
Turns out I don’t have enough material for a eulogy that Adam 2 would be proud of.
Looking Back, Forward
In the process of pondering Adam 2, I realized that we’re all driven by the four “H”s: Harvard, Hell, Heaven and Happiness.
In the earlier part of life, we spend much of our time trying to get into Harvard. Then, as a young adult, many of us act so selfish.
As we mature, we come to realize that the road to Heaven is having a genuine and giving heart. Finally, we discover that Happiness — which is what we all want — is not winning the rat race. The “Big H” is found by doing for others. By giving selflessly. By thinking big thoughts that are converted into equally big actions that benefit others.
These are the stories that should wind up in your eulogy.
At moments of introspection like this, I often turn to one of my favorite movie characters of all time, Carl Spackler, aka Bill Murray, in Caddyshack.
Just off the golf course, Carl stumbles onto enlightenment. He’s breezily wielding a pitchfork close to the throat of another caddy, telling a completely bogus story about carrying the Dalia Lama’s clubs for 18 holes. On the completion of the round, Carl says, his Holiness stiffed him. No tip for him.
In a state of zen-like calm, Carl tells his buddy he wasn’t ticked off. He said the “The Lama” promised him that he would receive “total consciousness on his deathbed,” which as Carl put it, “I’ve got that going for me, which is nice”
As I write my eulogy I think of the immortal words of Carl Spackler, at least I will have that going for me, which is nice!