Resumé Virtues vs. Eulogy Virtues
This week I watched a special documentary about the life of media mogul William Randolph Hearst. At the height of his power his empire included many daily newspapers, multiple magazine journals, movie studios which produced newsreels and silent films, and a number of radio stations. He owned large homes in the New York City area, in France and in California including the famous San Simeon which he built. He collected art in the same way he collected newspapers and radio stations. He also wooed many beautiful young chorus girls marrying one and carrying on a long running affair with another. One commentator noted that Hearst never seemed to have “enough”- enough money, power or fame. It was as if there was a hole in his heart that could not be filled.
This reminds me of a distinction David Brooks makes between what he calls “resume virtues”, which get you hired, promoted or noticed, and “eulogy values” which are the things people who know you comment upon at your death. He laments that we over emphasize the talents and actions which get us noticed over against those talents and actions which lead to a better life for all. We prioritize the resume virtues over the eulogy virtues and end up with lives which seem outwardly successful but are full of emptiness on the inside.
One of the great advantages of the eulogy virtues is that you can work on them for all of your life. You may reach a time where your career has reached its zenith or you are retired and can longer be promoted or lionized by others; but you never reach an age or time where you can no longer become a more mature or more generous or even a wiser person.
It would seem that the best time to work on your eulogy is while you are still alive. As long as you are alive it is not too late to become the person you desire to be.