Confucius (c. 1770) from The Granger Collection/New York/Wikipedia
Michael Puett, Harvard professor of Chinese History, described a society where narcissim and self-centered behaviors were on the rise, and our relationship with one another was strained. There's much fighting and disagreement on how to live harmoniously together.
Sounds like today's modern world?
Actually, Puett was describing China some 2,500 years ago. That background of societal chaos gave birth of the Chinese philosophy of Confucianism, and despite its thousand years-old age, the same philosophy holds true ... and popular. Puett's class on Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory is the third most popular class at Harvard University.
"This course will change your life," Puett promised, and many of his undergraduates agree, as Christine Gross-Loh of The Atlantic wrote:
Puett began offering his course to introduce his students not just to a completely different cultural worldview but also to a different set of tools. He told me he is seeing more students who are “feeling pushed onto a very specific path towards very concrete career goals” than he did when he began teaching nearly 20 years ago. [...] Puett sees students who orient all their courses and even their extracurricular activities towards practical, predetermined career goals and plans.
Puett tells his students that being calculating and rationally deciding on plans is precisely the wrong way to make any sort of important life decision. The Chinese philosophers they are reading would say that this strategy makes it harder to remain open to other possibilities that don’t fit into that plan.
Gross-Loh continues to explain how Puett gave three specific examples of how practical application of classical Chinese philosophy could change a student's life.