Saturday, November 15, 2014


David Brooks, in a brilliant New York Times column that may or may not be accessible when you read this, writes:

"I’ve been thinking about moments of agency … because often you see people who lack full agency. Sometimes you see lack of agency among the disadvantaged. Their lives can be so blown about by economic disruption, arbitrary bosses and general disorder that they lose faith in the idea that input leads to predictable output. You can offer job training programs, but they may not take full advantage because they don’t have confidence they can control their own destinies.

"Among the privileged, especially the privileged young, you see people who have been raised to be approval-seeking machines. They act active, busy and sleepless, but inside they often feel passive and not in control. Their lives are directed by other people’s expectations, external criteria and definitions of success that don’t actually fit them."

"So many people are struggling for agency. They are searching for the solid criteria that will help them make their own judgments. They are hoping to light an inner fire that will fuel relentless action in the same direction."

Agency is the degree to which we are cause in the matter of our own life. At any given moment, we are either the product of our obstacles or our aspirations, of our drama or of our possibility.