Advice to graduates: Reject the calls to ‘find yourself’ and ‘follow your passion’

Graduation season is upon us, and with it is sure to come a flurry of commencement addresses crammed with platitudes about self-actualization, self-indulgence, and self-fulfillment. Though accompanied by occasional urges to “change the world” and “make a difference,” all will still fit neatly within a much broader cultural aim: “finding ourselves,” “trusting ourselves,” and “being true to ourselves.” “It’s about living the life you want,” Oprah says, aptly capturing the spirit of the age, “because a great percentage of the population is living a life that their mother wanted, that their husband wanted, that they thought or heard they wanted…Start embracing the life that is calling you and use your life to serve the world.” Meanwhile, the real and tangible needs of our social and economic contexts swirl around us—present and future, seen and unforeseen—each of them held captive to the whims of our “passions” and “the life we want.” Overwhelmed by the distraction, we look inward, neglecting the moral foundations and social bonds that are so critical for communities and institutions to flourish. Continue Reading...

The virtues of boredom in an anxious age

Today’s parents are fixated on setting their children on strategic paths to “success”— cramming their days with lessons, sports, clubs, camps, and so on. The goal: to enrich their kids’ lives with new knowledge and experiences. Continue Reading...

Huckleberry Finn’s moral conscience

Few authors could spin words as well as Mark Twain, but the image of the chronicler of the Mississippi is perhaps one more of style and storytelling than of depth. We don’t read Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn and expect to find great moral insights or penetrating philosophy. Continue Reading...

Who’s the true good samaritan?

Mike Weirsky, an unemployed New Jersey man, just won $273 million in the Mega Millions lottery. According to one headline he “has a Good Samaritan to thank.” Weirsky left his tickets at the store where he bought them, but someone found them and gave them to the cashier. Continue Reading...

Charlie Menditéguy: Golf and virtue

Now that I am full-time at the Acton Institute (I had been associated since the beginning, but on the governing board) I am trying to read most of its output. Not an easy task giving the numerous books, articles, academic papers and blog posts it publishes each year. Continue Reading...