A Cultural Evolution

Smitten. Recently, I’ve been bitten by the knowledge bug and I’m completely smitten with learning and reading and writing and of course my version of creating art: synthesizing ideas.

For the longest time, I read and studied the How’s of the world. How to be a better person, how to be a good leader, how to set goals, etc. Learning the how-to’s made me extroverted- it made me a people person, it strengthened my social skills. But I never felt like that was enough; I wasn’t satisfied.

Then a few things happened… Anjali happened, and a little book called Sleights of Mind happened. Anjali is the girl who I look up to, she is my role model, and quite honestly she inspires me to make myself better and shows me how to do it; the book was the cherry on top.

Sleights of Mind opened my eyes to the realm of psychology, and perception. It tied in neuroscience and tantalized me with visual and verbal illusions; I was smitten.

That’s when the change began; I began reading about the Why’s of the world. Why do we do what we do, why do people crave attention, why do we need to feel wanted? Each truth lead to the next and I realized I really enjoyed what I was learning- I loved it so much I started writing about it, and then I began wondering…

Why are all the books that people use to learn the ‘soft skills’ of the social world only discuss the how-to do something and not the why it’s important or where these desires may be coming from?

The answer to the question I couldn’t adequately phrase, presented itself in Susan Cain’s book Quiet. In her book, Cain talks about a cultural evolution that took place around the time of the Industrial Revolution. During this period of time, there was a shift from a culture that was character focused to one that became personality driven.

In the Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable; what counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private.* In the Culture of Personality, the focus shifted to how others perceived you.* Society became impregnated with desire for social acceptance and success; to do that you had to be the best- and show others that you were too. So naturally, media portrayed all the ‘attributes’ that were deemed necessary to be liked, rich, and famous- and how-to get them.

Personally, I don’t think that kind of approach to life is enough. Doing something just for the sake of doing it deprives life with intrinsic meaning. I’m not saying sit down and define your purpose in life- holistically speaking I don’t think anyone can. But I am saying identify what makes you happy and don’t be afraid to understand why. Personally, I have found that a journey, filled with curiosity and exploration, makes a much better narrative to live than just holding out hope for an orgasmic climax.

 

My inspiration to synthesize this piece came from my reading of Susan Cain’s book Quiet, Susana Martinez-Conde’s book Sleights of Mind and Miss Anjali Bhat’s profound influence on my life.

*Quotes from Quiet

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