Presidential Address: On Resisting the Narcissism of the Present
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Human beings, by nature, are self-focused. We fixate on whatever it is we are experiencing right now, right here. We tend to get stuck inside our own perspectives. Esteemed presidential historian and biographer, Jon Meacham, often tells a story about a conversation he had with a colleague feeling beleaguered by the state of American politics, complaining that they have never been worse. “Really?” Meacham replied. “You don’t think the Civil War, maybe, was a little worse?” Well, maybe, the colleague conceded. Meacham warns us all to beware of what he describes as the narcissism of the present. It blinds us to the lessons of the past and the possibilities of the future.
The narcissism of the present. It is a paralyzing condition that prevents us from moving forward—the idea that what is happening to us now should be our reference point for all that is good and for all that is not. We lose touch with the fact that where we are now is just a moment that fits into the broader, ever-changing...