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We live in an age of great conflicts and petty hopes. Take first our hopes. In the book The Real American Dream, Andrew Delbanco traced the history of the scope of American dreams—from the “holy God” of the Puritan founders, to the “great nation” of the 19th-century patriots, to the “satisfied self” of many today. With some modifications, America’s yearning for the satisfied self is probably indicative of trends in most societies that are highly integrated into the global market system. The idea of flourishing as a human being has shriveled to meaning no more than leading an experientially satisfying life. The sources of satisfaction may vary: power, possessions, love, religion, sex, food, drugs. What matters most is not the source of satisfaction but the experience of it—my satisfaction.

 

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