The Chinese exhortations may seem impossible to us, but perhaps that feeling comes more from our sense of frustration with—and rejection of—the values that they endorse rather than a sense that we don’t want our walls to tell us what to do.
Ethical Reasoning 18: “Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory” is Harvard’s third most popular class, with 532 students enrolled. This is a new record for the class, but it has been growing for some time.
Each year, many Harvard students with literary interests come up against this cultural type. It’s the purest form of the “passion versus paycheck” dilemma: Do I do what I love for no money, or do I go after a more lucrative but so-called “soulless” career path?
Is doing recruiting selling out?” wondered one senior English concentrator who has also considered trying to get a reporting job at a magazine. “I’m worried the lucrative stuff is going to feel really substanceless,” a government concentrator told me. Over and over, students I’ve interviewed describe their thinking in these terms: they feel that can follow either their passions or a big paycheck.
To Noh, the problem, at least at Harvard, has more to do with a culture of competitiveness, which emphasizes indicators of merit (which can be compared and judged) over intimations of deeper meaning (which are purely personal pleasures).