Have you ever been going along minding your own business and then got caught up in an idea or concept or project or person and found yourself soaring along and buying in, only to end up feeling totally duped? And as you opened your eyes you’re all- how the heck did I let THAT happen?
You know what’s great about those moments? Your eyes open.
What’s brutal is that this is happening all the time as our world-views, values and perspectives are formed by the culture we’re in and much of the time it’s near impossible to wake up and see it all for what it is.
There’s a distinction in here that’s so important to me for us to be paying attention to…
AM I BEING CREATED BY CULTURE? OR AM I CREATING CULTURE?
My first memory of the moment that such brainwashing occurred for me has to do with the cult of pretty.
I was eleven and flipping through a beauty magazine and in big bold letters, above an ab-workout was the line: Every woman wants a flat stomach
I remember that moment so viscerally. I’d had no idea that every woman wanted a flat stomach. Being eleven and having gone through puberty early, I was right in the throes of woman training. To be a woman is to want a flat stomach. Whether you get one or not doesn’t make you a woman, the wanting makes you a woman. And thus having a flat stomach makes you a better woman, cause you got what we all want. While body image obsession certainly started before that, this pivotal moment epitomizes what it means to be created by culture.
My values, my views, what I so deeply longed for was not a function of my own heart, my own soul’s stirring, they were constructed by an existing culture. And lead by the sale of something or another.
Why do you want what you want? The house, the car, the spouse, the big pay-check or the stuff? The freedom to do what you want to do, when you want to do it? Enlightenment? A booming business? Healthy kids?
I think it’s an interesting question, to really question, what feeds our longing, what feeds our desires. Are we keeping up with the Jones’ or have we bought into the importance or value of something? What aspects of our culture are creating us in healthy and sustainable ways and what aspects of our culture are creating us in unhealthy and unsustainable ways?
What I’ve longed for more than anything, is influence. When you have influence, you create culture. Beyond influence, on behalf of creating healthy culture, I want discernment, compassion, wisdom and humility.
Discernment: If we’re creating culture, if we’re choosing to use our influence to create change rather than make a buck-(whatever the cost to society), we need discernment. Questions must be asked like How do I discern between my own self-serving wants and needs and the needs of the whole? How can I discern what the needs of the whole are? In the midst of paradox, when value systems conflict, how might I discern right action in the short and long term?
Compassion: I need compassion to embrace those who harm through ignorance and compassion for myself for my foibles and unskilful moves and missteps. I need compassion for those who are unable to change for the betterment of all and who even try to drag the rest of us to hell.
Wisdom: I need wisdom to be able to hold multiple perspectives and see wider views. Wisdom helps me to see where I’m being created by an unhealthy culture once again, in what ways that’s in service, and in what ways that’s pulling us away from our greatest potential. Wisdom offers beacons of light to those who want to throw down the straight jacket of the culture that’s created them and be created by something else.
Humility: I don’t pray for humility because it’s around every corner when you’re taking risks. Humility allows me to be open to being wrong, to give this all a go because it feels so damn important but it may turn out that it’s not at all. Humility reminds me that I have no idea what I’m talking about or what’s actually going on. But that doesn’t negate my willingness to throw myself into the fire for what may be on the other side. Humility allows me to be influenced, curious, open and tender.
We could be doing so much better as a people. A global people. So many are finding solutions to really complex problems. So many are giving of themselves to others. So many are labouring to create a global culture that’s in support of all inhabiting this planet. We all get to choose if we’re going to be created by a culture that values perversion and consumption, self-soothing, entertainment and individualized ‘freedoms’ or if we’re going to do the terrifying work of creating a culture that’s in service of sustainability and collective thriving. I know what I’m choosing, however clumsy I may be.