Why I quit following my heart

Photo credit: pixabay/condesign cc0 public domain

The baby-boomers created a culture that tells us to just “follow your heart.” Do whatever that makes you happy.

As a Gen-Xer, I grew up with this mindset, with parents that were permissive.

Even these days, self-improvement and spirituality sections of bookstores and interwebs are full of messages like this.

This culture of hedonism that glorifies self-centeredness — the progressives who place so much premium on feelings and the libertarian-leaning conservatives who worship Ayn Rand and her “virtue of selfishness” — led to the election of Donald J. Trump, the ultimate prototype par excellence of the selfish culture that dominates our world today. We deserved this. Trump’s campaign isn’t that much different from the selfie-generation ethos that drives the Millennials.

Many people mislead others into choosing a career path that “follows one’s heart.” The deadly problem with this is that a genuine vocation must be something that is greater than one’s own self.

Too often, “I’m just following my own heart” becomes a poor excuse for the lack of self-discipline and direction. Whenever one hits a difficult time, or things go bad, it is not the self that keeps the fire burning — it is always something that’s bigger than the self, be it called God, America, or family.

Traditionally, going into business, or choosing a holy vocation in priesthood, enlisting in the armed forces, or attending a college all stemmed from one’s aspiration for serving something far greater than they are (like, “for God, King, and Country”). Today, it’s just a consumeristic choice made out of someone’s whim that could change any time. Accordingly, they don’t develop any sense of loyalty, commitment, or steadfastness. Even career coaches these days tell folks to quit their jobs before you would regret for not leaving that job sooner.

Some younger people are obviously dissatisfied with this shallowness that pervades today’s culture. Some become radicalized and even aspire for martyrdom — perhaps one among many other reasons why so many American-born, American-grown youth are caught engaging in terrorist acts. In earlier generations, these kids joined religious cults. Either way, they were hungry for that which is bigger than who they were, to which they can dedicate their lives and energies.

The culture that is alienated from its historical and traditional roots, from its spiritual and ethical underpinnings, cannot produce greatness.

It takes far more than merely following my own heart to aspire for that greatness. Until we understand what we have done as society to promote selfishness above all, we have no moral right to condemn Trump.