Morality – Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times

Starting the series of books recommendations, with a book fresh from the oven, published just a couple of months ago.

You’ve guest it folks, it’s written by Rabbi Sacks. But, as you can immediately notice, this one is signed just “Jonathan Sacks”, and not “Rabbi Jonathan Sacks” as his previous ones.

Coincidence? I don’t think so. As I was going through the pages, I’ve noticed that it doesn’t sound like a typical book written by a rabbi. It’s not a book about religion, or Jewish laws, traditions and observance. At least, not directly.

What is it about than? I think that an alternative title could’ve been “Togetherness”. It’s about switching back from I to We, about focusing on others versus oneself. About what are the causes and what are the consequences of this shift.

If you’ll look at the table of contents, you’ll notice a coherent structure, that could easily belong to a sociology / psychology book:

  • Part 1 – The Solitary Self: about the impact of the individualistic culture (focusing on the coined term bowling alone);
  • Part 2 – Consequences: expanding on the impact of the loss of a shared morality
  • Part 3 – Can We Still Reason Together: on the attitude towards truth & civility in the public conversation
  • Part 4 – Being Human: connecting morality with having a meaningful life
  • Part 5 – The Way Forward: his perspective on why morality matters

But despite the first impression you might get, it’s not a book anchored just in philosophical concepts, enunciating theories. It’s a book deeply rooted into the world around us, discussing with great clarity contemporary events and controversial issues.

And it’s quite surprising how much can be covered in a bit over 300 pages:

  • From Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy (defined as psychological healing based on man’s search for meaning) to Utilitarianism or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • From Post-Truths & Fake News, used as political tools to Jewish ways of argumentation for the sake of Heavens
  • From calling out on the idea of Safe Space, which, he states, implies that spaces that challenge your views are “unsafe”, underlying that what is safe space to some, is very unsafe to others, to explaining why the whole idea of micro-aggressions feeds hyper-sensitivities.
  • All the way to discussing famous CEOs such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Bob Iger (from Disney)

Why is Morality something worth making such a strong case for? Here’s a couple of definitions, from his book:

Morality is born when I focus on you not me, when I discover that you, too, have emotions, desires, aspirations and fears.

Morality, at its core, is about strengthening the bonds between us, helping others, engaging in reciprocal altruism and understanding the demands of group loyalty, which are the price of group belonging.

Now, I know that I said that on surface it’s not a book about Judaism, but tell me, as you read the above lines, does any specific group belonging comes to mind? 😉

P.S. You might wonder what’s with the photo of the 2 books. Well, judging by the countless post-its, one of them is obviously mine. The other might be yours. Keep close and you can have a chance of wining it soon.*

* The contest will be open just to J-Nutshell members, living in Romania.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *