Modern Cult of Telos

     An opinion piece from the New York Times surprisingly acknowledges the emotional fragility of modern students and their need for validation.  Unsurprisingly, this is used as an excuse to condemn teaching children self-discipline, self-reliance, and a stoic ability to endure.

“Once upon a time, the story line goes, kids were raised in a tough environment. They had to do hard manual chores around the house and they got in fights on the playground. Then they went off to do grueling work in the factory or they learned toughness and grit in the military.


“There’s a lot of truth to that narrative, but let’s not be too nostalgic for the past. A lot of what we take to be the toughness of the past was really just callousness. There was a greater tendency in years gone by to wall off emotions, to put on a thick skin — for some men to be stone-like and uncommunicative and for some women to be brittle, brassy and untouchable.”

     The proffered solution?  Fulfill the kiddies’ emotional void with a spiritually fulfilling purpose, or “telos“.

“[Emotional fragility is] caused by anything that makes it harder for people to find their telos. It’s caused by the culture of modern psychology, which sometimes tries to talk about psychological traits in isolation from moral purposes. It’s caused by the ethos of the modern university, which in the name of ‘critical thinking’ encourages students to be detached and corrosively skeptical. It’s caused by the status code of modern meritocracy, which encourages people to pursue success symbols that they don’t actually desire.

“We are all fragile when we don’t know what our purpose is, when we haven’t thrown ourselves with abandon into a social role, when we haven’t committed ourselves to certain people, when we feel like a swimmer in an ocean with no edge.

“If you really want people to be tough, make them idealistic for some cause, make them tender for some other person, make them committed to some worldview that puts today’s temporary pain in the context of a larger hope.”

     Would you like some grape flavor-aid to go along with that sense of spiritual fulfillment?

     Emotional fragility comes not from lack of spiritually fulfilling purpose, but by reliance thereupon.

     If you need someone else to provide you with an emotional and almost spiritually fulfilling reason to live, than you are emotionally fragile, and not in any way, shape, or form strong or a sign or resilience; it is a sign of a hollow life.

     As Virgil said: “Durate, et vosmet rebus servate secundis.”

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