Sam Harris and the Great Untruth of Us vs. Them

In their book The Coddling of the American Mind, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff spelled out three great untruths that they believe are infesting our culture. While I’m ambivalent about the book, these three great untruths have stayed with me. They are:

  1. The Untruth of Fragility: What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.
  2. The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: always trust your feelings.
  3. The Untruth of Us Vs. Them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.
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Living Mindfully in a Kingdom of Fear

Like many, I watched in horror as America elected a narcissistic bully as our next president. Like many, I was overwhelmed by despair, panic, and grief, and astonished by the intensity of my feelings. A serene voice in my head repeated, over and over, “There, there, things might not be that bad. We don’t know the future. Maybe he won’t be a complete unmitigated monster.” And yet I couldn’t curtail the horror, disgust, and panic that was rising within me. I couldn’t sleep, I drank too much, I was a morose basket case. I couldn’t get out of my head the circus of obscenities that we had all been exposed to: the abuses, the lies, the disregard for the beams of democracy, the Caligula-like grandiosity of Donald Trump. Now we are to live with such disgust – and whatever other follies may come – for the next four years.

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