Americans must stop chasing the success image in all their activities, Raphael Demos, Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity, told a graduate education seminar last night.
Speaking to the largest group attracted by the seminar program this term, Demos stated that there are certain areas in which the idea of success--accomplishing something definite--does not profitably apply. Marriage, foreign relations, education, religion, medicine, and the search for the good life were listed as places where the hopes for success can be harmful.
"Expecting total success in marriage may be the cause of marriage failures." A good family should have some "discord and dissent." The principal also holds true for politics, where success can not be measured, Demos suggested. "We should not demand success where there can be none."
He said that the great pre-occupation with "peace of mind" was indicative of a "deep anxiety" in the country. "Profit motive is a necessary motive for accomplishment, but there must be something else as well." He urged that failure not be thought of as a "dirty word." Failure and tragedy must "be accepted" as part of life.
While praising the image of success as the inspirational force behind America's business development, Demos suggested that America is perhaps ready to shift its attention from the achievement of success to the search for the good life. Terming "creative idleness" as the "highest good," he voiced a hope that the new Administration would help steer the country toward this goal.
He said he was "somewhat angry" that only business successes have been White House dinner guests for the past several years. "Not a poet or an artist" has been invited, he claimed.