“The empty self is inordinately individualistic. A few years ago, I was sitting in an elementary school gym with other parents at a D.A.R.E. graduation (a public school program designed to help children “say no to drugs”) for my daughter’s sixth-grade class. Five sixth graders were about to read brief papers expressing their reasons for why they would say no to drugs. As it turned out, each paper was a variation of one reason for refusing to take drugs: self-interest. Student after student said that he or she would refuse drugs because of a desire to stay healthy, become a doctor or athlete, or do well in school. Conspicuous by its absence was the moral factor: not a single reference to duty to community or virtue before God. Not one student said that drugs were anathema because of the shame it would bring to family, community, or God. Individualistic reasons were the only ones given. By contrast, when a Japanese ice skater fell during an Olympic performance years ago, her main concern was not the endorsement opportunities she had lost. She felt bad for her family and the people who supported her so faithfully. Community loomed large in the way she understood her own self. A healthy form of individualism is a good thing. But the empty self that populates American culture is a self-contained individual who defines his own life goals, values, and interests as though he were a human atom, isolated from others with little need or responsibility to live for the concerns of his broader community. The self-contained individual does his own thing and seeks to create meaning by looking within his own self. But as psychologist Martin Seligman warns, ‘The self is a very poor site for finding meaning.’” — Excerpt from The Lost Virtue of Happiness by J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler.