Today is November 18, 2019 /

Jonathan Haidt is stirring my soul

Published in Ayeka by Aryeh Ben David
Posted on December 24, 2018

Jonathan Haidt’s books have been stirring my soul, both his latest book, The Coddling of the American Mind. How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, and his previous one, The Righteous Person.

It is remarkable to me how on the one hand he can write such provocative and powerful ideas, and on the other hand be such a soft-spoken and humble individual. I can’t stop listening to his YouTubes.

How can this quote not stir something in you?

“From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty, sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes” [Supreme Court Justice John Roberts’s speech to his son’s graduating 8th grade class], p 193.

He is pushing me to ask myself: “How well do I benefit from the unplanned and unanticipated (and unwanted) events in my life? How afraid am I to let my life go off-script? How much am I coddling myself?” It seems to me that I am always on the verge of the next stage of my life, which brings up anxiety and fear. When will I just let go of the worries and just tumble joyously into what life is giving to me?

Most of all, his personal story speaks to me. I didn’t know him, but he grew up in my hometown with a very similar background to mine. He talks openly of how his 25-year career as a social psychologist, researcher, and professor,  engendered an inner journey which brought him to a different part of the political landscape and caused him to question the essential foundations of his value system.

Stir away.