Most American young people, like their ancestors, harbor desires for a worthy life: a life of meaning, a life that makes sense. But they are increasingly confused about what such a life might look like, and how they might, in the present age, be able to live one. With a once confident culture no longer offering authoritative guidance, the young are now at sea—regarding work, family, religion, and civic identity. The true, the good, and the beautiful have few defenders, and the higher cynicism mocks any innocent love of wisdom or love of country. We are supercompetent regarding efficiency and convenience; we are at a loss regarding what it’s all for.
Yet because the old orthodoxies have crumbled, our “interesting time” paradoxically offers genuine opportunities for renewal and growth. The old Socratic question “How to live?” suddenly commands serious attention. Young Americans, if liberated from the prevailing cynicism, will readily embrace weighty questions and undertake serious quests for a flourishing life. All they (and we) need is encouragement.
This book provides that necessary encouragement by illuminating crucial—and still available—aspects of a worthy life, and by defending them against their enemies. With chapters on love, family, and friendship; human excellence and human dignity; teaching, learning, and truth; and the great human aspirations of Western civilization, it offers help to both secular and religious readers, to people who are looking on their own for meaning and to people who are looking to deepen what they have been taught or to square it with the spirit of our times.