How we can give up our preoccupation with the puny objects of ourselves.

“Each citizen is habitually engaged in the contemplation of a very puny object, namely himself.”

—Alexis de Tocqueville

In the century and a half since de Tocqueville penned those words about the American experience, little has changed. No one, and no thing, interrupts people more than momentarily from their obsessive preoccupation with themselves. Indeed, concerned observers using the diagnostic disciplines of psychology, sociology, economics, and theology lay the blame for the deterioration of our public and personal lives at the door of the self.

It seems America is still in conspicuous need of unselfing.

Of course, a few people carry placards to try to wake up the masses to the danger in which a century of mindless selfishness has put us. Desperately they try to avert the destruction of the Earth by protesting the insanities of militarism, the greedy and reckless practices ravaging our streams, forests, and air, and the bloated consumerism leaving much of the world hungry and poor.

Others hand out tracts in an attempt to startle the shuffling crowds into dealing with their souls, not just their selves. They urgently call attention to the eternal value of the soul, present the authoritative words of Scripture, and ask the big question, “Are you saved?”

Both groups attract occasional flurries of attention, but not for long. And while both groups care, they do not seem to care much for each other. One group wants to save society, the other to save souls. Neither recognizes a common ground.

From time to time other solutions are offered: psychologists propose a therapy, educators install a new curriculum, economists plan legislation, sociologists imagine new ...

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