The Ezra Klein Show: Timeless Wisdom for Leading a Life of Love, Friendship and Learning

New York Times Opinion New York Times Opinion 12/14/21 - Episode Page

“Today, we are supercompetent when it comes to efficiency, utility, speed, convenience, and getting ahead in the world; but we are at a loss concerning what it’s all for,” Leon Kass writes in hi...s 2017 book “Leading a Worthy Life.” “This lack of cultural and moral confidence about what makes a life worth living is perhaps the deepest curse of living in our interesting time.”

Kass spent more than 30 years as an award-winning teacher at the University of Chicago, where he gained a reputation among students for his commitment to the big questions of human existence and the study of classic texts. And he’s written books and essays on marriage, sports, ethics, friendship, romance, the philosophy of food, biblical wisdom and more. In many ways, Kass’s career represents a lifelong effort to grapple with the biggest question of all: What does it mean to live a meaningful life?

This conversation, between Kass and the New York Times Opinion columnist David Brooks, is an attempt to answer that question. Along the way, they discuss the difference between choosing a career and discovering a vocation; the key ingredients of a successful romantic relationship; how to distinguish between superficial friendships and life-altering ones; why finding the right job is less about searching within ourselves and more about committing to something beyond ourselves; Kass’s view that the most distinctive thing about individuals isn’t their race, gender or class but “the ruling passions of their souls”; and what the biblical Exodus story can teach Americans about how to live together more harmoniously.

Founding God’s Nation by Leon Kass
The Second Mountain by David Brooks

Book Recommendations:
The Hebrew Bible, especially Genesis and Exodus
Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot

This episode is guest-hosted by David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, whose work focuses on politics, culture and moral formation. He currently serves as chair of Weave: The Social Fabric Project at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. and is the author of several books, including “The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.” You can follow him on Twitter @nytdavidbrooks. (Learn more about the other guest hosts during Ezra’s parental leave here.)

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You can find transcripts (posted midday) and more episodes of "The Ezra Klein Show" at, and you can find Ezra on Twitter @ezraklein. Book recommendations from all our guests are listed at />
“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin, Jeff Geld and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Jeff Geld; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin and Alison Bruzek.

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