On Cultural Conditioning– a hindrance to change.

Cultural conditioning is like polyurethaning of furniture, it is a process of layering. Each generation continuously layers culture. Between layers you take a fine sanding to the furniture. You fine sand to prepare for the next layer at the same time providing a finishing touch to the present one. The work you do today is in preparation for tomorrow as much as it is for today. We may understand such theory, however, in practice we tend to view the layers with a certain separateness. Our lives are to us made up of a List of Things To Do; we have a job, a spiritual practice, we network, organize things, do our chores and grocery shopping, although on one list, we think them as individual tasks. All of these things prepare us for the moment and for tomorrow. While going to church and going to the grocery store are two totally different paths, they both tend to you, and on a deeper level sustain us. In those final stages of a woodworking project you see each layer as one whole same process. In truth, even the most delicate hand in fine sanding is slightly inconsistent. The process creates tiny grooves, it is a by-hand process that under the microscope would reveal its inconsistencies, perhaps, unnoticeable to the naked eye. Now every layer that comes after will replicate that groove, alter that groove, and create new ones of its own. Each layer is affected by the prior, is applied as its own layer, and creates a new surface for the next layer.

When we see our daily practices as one complete process we still honor the individual activity, or stroke of the fine paper, but we honor highest the whole process. In the honoring of what is highest our human instinct will compare everything else to it. Meaning that every surface of the woodworking project that we fine sand in the layering process, will receive our highest attention to detail, whether we are working on an obvious part that is central or the part that will be less visible to the public eye–regardless if the first, second, or final layer.

Our highest value in life is or should be our moral and spiritual conviction. And when we begin to truly honor our highest convictions, all else we will be judged in comparison to these. Every last detail or activity in our lives will receive the stroke of skilled craftsmanship. A matter of integrity, we will begin to understand our moral obligations as the betterment of our own lives and for the lives affected by our actions–future generations.

When we begin to recognize in ourselves an unabridged explanation of the things we do in and for culture, we will begin to understand what integrity is in our daily lives. The unique activities, in fact, wont lose their individual significance but will all rise to the same level of importance. That same exquisite touch you give to the detailed carvings on a leg of furniture is the same you give to an open flat surface, and the same for discreet places. The attention to detail is the sign and signature of a skilled carpenter. While the ability of a carpenter and the volition to lead a life of meaning have different skill sets –one is based on objects, the other is thought and idea– I am hard pressed to say which set of skills are more difficult to acquire. We can appreciate a well built piece of furniture that is also gorgeous to look at. We can imagine the skills and tools it takes to piece together something that has both structural and aesthetic value. If we want to improve our culture, to change it, to create something new, is a massive undertaking to say the least. However, it is possible, and a matter of conviction. We’ve seen it in our lifetime. Martin Luther King Jr, had such conviction. However, so did a vast community in the Puget Sound region who re-pioneered organic farming and foods and such. And so has any individual who made the decision to change their beliefs based on the actions of MLK Jr. or grassroots people in the Puget sound. Finally, to the extent that we change our convictions without even knowing who lay the seeds for them in culture. We latch on, because culturally as an idea it seems to work, and a deeper consent gives the nod. In culture change is a movement, the movement begins with an idea and then continues on with the “agreement”; the movement is deemed compatible as it assimilates into culture. This implicates the important role the individual plays in the movement of ideas. Suddenly in comparison, learning the skills of carpentry would undoubtedly be a much easier task. The sheer numbers it takes to make culture change is astounding. Furthermore, that every individual who wants change must do so with absolute conviction to the higher purpose, recognizes what a skilled task this is. Imagine, like the carpenter, every detail counts. Everything is within view of the public eye, no matter it’s discreet locational part of the structure. Imagine, every detail of your life as a public event–the level of accountability surges prodigiously. That surge seems to rise naturally, however, getting the word out there helps it along.

Natural process–something that happens within time. Time–our days move so fast now, filled to the brim with things to do. We feel as if we don’t have enough of it. Change–takes involvement, a hands on process. Conditioning–our busy lives of object meaning of separate “things to do”, actually clouds clarity, and we lead a very sub-concious life; picking up the kids from school, grocery shopping, making dinner, paying bills, starting or finishing a project, work, meetings, time spent with friends and family, television, art, entertainment, spiritual practice and or worship. Cultural evolution, we are at a stage in development when we are very conscious and aware of ourselves, if we make the effort.

Looking to history we see events happening in stages. The rise of autonomy, revolution, and the birth of democracy could be told in one story. True, each of those things is for one profound calling–Freedom. However, each of those things are also individual movements that occurred over a vast period and through many generations of people. This perspective makes it hard for us to see the significance of the common individual’s role in movement. Then again, we can look back recently to the Civil Rights movement and know that MLKJr certainly did not march alone or solely with a few key individuals. The most effective marches happened with the volition of hundreds of brave individuals. However, not all causes for change will have such object meaning–we wont see people being sprayed with fire hoses, attacked by police dogs, or one ethnicity beaten by another in public view. We wont see the disparity of and in which they live. I think what gave that particular movement its lasting strength was its cry for basic Human Rights. Human Rights are abstract, practical, and instinctually known, however, the movement gains strength in numbers at the moment Rights, in violation, are heinously object. Whereas today, with the majority of us enjoying our Human Rights being honored, at last, many ‘signs’ that denote ‘change is needed’ find their objectivity in our daily lives in matters, although basic rights, that are object materials. For example the severe mortgage crisis of our day–many people have lost their homes, and for the moment, the majority have found other housing arrangements.

*[Haiti has been in desperate need for decades, but not until the earthquake of 2010-televised, internetized, and otherwise, did the world give generously. Perhaps, if there was a city of people inhabiting the glacier that broke off into the sea, we would have 24 hour news coverage on all major channels right now. Although, the glacier is an object, devoid of humans–geographically and conceptually it is out of reach.]*

However, post-911, we found ourselves with a profound sense of moral conviction to makes things change–unfortunately our leadership took advantage of our willingness and led us down a terrible path, which we have yet to find our way back from. In a progressive culture, we have provided ourselves with such comfort, and with “busy” daily lives, that even as a hulking piece of glacier the size of a small country breaks off into the ocean–threatening global sea level and temperature–it is as if nothing threatening even happened, even some claiming mendacity of the potential ecological threat. Matters of the human object body and its freedom are instinctually “easy” for us to change and improve our perspective on, however, matters of science and other earthly issues seem daunting, if not out of reach.

Grounded in material objects, if ours remain the same, while other’s change, we are less inclined to do something about it. In truth, for the thousands of people who have lost their homes recently, there should be two million of us banging on the door of the Capital. Optionally, we could begin to ploy emotional reactions to motivate people to unite for the cause, however, we have the ability to do so based on knowing the difference between right and wrong. Through the experience and layering of Culture we have a very clear definition between what is right and what is wrong. We have acquired the skill set–if we choose to engage with it. However, what we have “learned” in and through culture is informed by something inherent in the human genus–we recognize the importance of higher meaning, a knowledge that has always been there, lurking in the shadows, waiting for us. And that is Consciousness, the Ground of all Being. We have the integrity to raise our moral values, its there in wait, we can’t see it though.

[It’s the same as comparing the acquiring of moral standards and the skills of a carpenter. It is a matter of perception and ultimate importance. If we want change, we have to change too… learning how to is imperative.]

The idea of the important role the individual plays in the idea of a movement are substantial cultural subjects worth revisiting, renewing, and creating. We are waiting for change, rather than seeking it. In our busy daily lives, making the educated vote for the best political candidate is about all the time we give to creating change. This not enough.

It is high time for us to march on Selma again, but this time the march is a reflective one with external implications, actually, it has always been this way.

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