by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Arthur Brooks has managed to carve out a living by studying, speaking about, and encouraging happiness (after many fascinating journeys, including as a classical French hornist and president of the American Enterprise Institute). He teaches happiness at Harvard, even. I was sitting next to him at commencement at the Catholic University of America recently before he shared some of the secrets of the pursuit of happiness. Talking with students who largely shared his (our) Catholic faith, he could presume a few things: that they believe in God. That they believe that there might very well be a plan God has for them. What a relief for them. They have a starting place, following in the footsteps of the God who loved them first.
At a dinner the night before for those receiving honorary doctorates (I was among them; don’t worry, I have no “Dr.” illusions), Brooks talked about the gift that is Ivy League students coming into his office and closing the door and asking the most important things. I want to be married. I want to have a family. How do I do these things? They know in their hearts that career and material success aren’t everything. If they have religious faith, they have the suspicion, at the very least, that those are not the things they are going to be judged on.
These are my words, not Arthur’s, but he is — in addition to explaining the social science — translating the gospel for the people in the world today. He is a bit of a secret agent that way. Teaching at Harvard, writing for the Atlantic, hanging out with the Dalai Lama (he does), and co-authoring an upcoming book with Oprah Winfrey. This is what Pope Francis talks about when he encourages people to go to the peripheries.