Yamamoto Tsunetomo was a rōnin and monk of the mid-Edo period. After his death in 1719, one of his students compiled his sayings into a treatise on Bushido called Hagakure (“In the Shadow of Leaves”). Tsunetomo believed that a samurai must be quiet, selfless, rigorous, and fanatically devoted to service and duty. The highest good, Tsunetomo taught, is found in single-minded and self-effacing commitment to one’s craft. “Throughout your life advance daily,” he urged, “becoming more skillful than yesterday, more skillful than today. This is never-ending.” The master samurai never thinks he has succeeded.

Even Tsunetomo was not entirely rigid. “It is foolish,” he observed in a lighter moment, “to live within this dream of a world seeing unpleasantness and doing only things you do not like.” But “it is important never to tell this to young people,” he warned, “as it is something that would be harmful if incorrectly understood.”

Yet today the young see the message of self-indulgence everywhere. They learn that they can do as they like by simply adopting their teachers’ opinions. Want to skip class? No problem—do so in protest of gun violence or fossil fuels.