It was good to step out of the “bubble” of my professional, protected, pompous life and read, The Social Animal by David Brooks. Brooks said, “People gravitate toward people like themselves. When we meet new people, we instantly start matching our behavior to theirs.” Jumping into the two fictitious characters of the book, Erica and Harold, I became immersed into the world of people that my profession is trying to reach.
As a pastor, I can become immersed and gravitate toward people just like us. Being intentional about reaching and touching the unsaved world around us is a mandate from our boss and Savior. Jesus would have connected with Erica and Harold. Brooks awakened a world around me that is quite different from my “bubble” of Christian life. It caused me to ask how I am doing with the “Harold’s and Erica’s” around me?
Brooks said, “We spend large parts of our lives trying to get other to accept our patterns – and trying to resist this sort of mental hegemony from others. On a broader scale, people don’t just connect; they compete to connect. We compete against one another to win the prestige and respect and attention that will help us bond with one another.”
David Brooks does an exceptional job making two people become real. He follows the ancestry and family dynamics of their parents and then takes us from their birth to their meeting that culminated in a life together. Brooks doesn’t just tell a nonfictional story about the lives of two people. He goes deeper. Brooks said, “…I am going to tell you about these two happy people from the perspective of this enchanted inner life.”
This “enchanted inner life” was Brooks’ attempt to show us what he calls the “unconscious system”. “I want to show you what this unconscious system looks like when it is flourishing, when the affections and aversions that guide us every day have been properly nurtured, the emotions properly educated.”
Brooks leads us through the reality of Erica and Harold’s lives, but he goes beneath the obvious and reveals the unconscious realities that shape them, and in reality, shape us. “The unconscious in not merely a dark, primitive zone of fear and pain. It is also a place where spiritual states arise and dance from soul to soul. It collects the wisdom of the ages.”
At times The Social Animal is raw. It reveals the “behind the scenes” of the unconscious realities that Harold and Erica face. The angst of youth, the adultery of adulthood, the anger of family heritage, and the adversity of relationships that shift so quickly. Brooks doesn’t just “tell” us about these two, he draws us into their psychic, motivations, and morals that direct their journey.
As you read The Social Animal, you began to immerse yourself in their lives from a deeper concept than conversational. You find yourself engaging with their lives and Brooks giving you the intellectual dialogue as you writhe from success to failure. But is that enough to cause us to step outside our “bubble” and find Harold and Erica and affect them with truth that comes from Jesus Christ?
Brooks stated, “…if reasoning led to moral behavior, then those who could reach moral conclusions would be able to apply their knowledge across a range of circumstances, based on these universal moral laws. But in reality, it has been hard to find this sort of consistency.” At this point of The Social Animal I was torn inside. Am I delivering every week a message that is more than just good reasoning? There is a universal “truth” that is in Jesus Christ that the people that I speak to, the Harold’s and Erica’s in my congregation, need to know about.
Thank you, David Brooks, for bursting my “bubble” again and giving me a heart for every Harold and Erica that I get a chance to impact.
 David Brooks, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, (New York: Random House, 2011), 211.
 Ibid., 213.
 Ibid., xii.
 Ibid., xii.
 Ibid., xvii.
 Ibid., 282.