Many people do not know what they think. Almost no one knows why they think what they think. We inherit a – by virtue of our birth in a nation, state, region, and family – a way of seeing the world. This view of the world is largely obscured from consciousness. But it remains a grand why moving beneath the mainstream current of culture, ever shaping and informing a new batch of hapless travelers along the voyage of life. Generation after generation of young people are set a drift in a sea of moral relativity. These drifters only have a vague sense of what they believe and no concrete sense of why. But it is a fact of life that the “what’s” of human thought are never as important as the “why’s”. When you live with no sense of why you quickly discover navigating difficult questions is like trying to circumvent the globe on a rudderless ship. Your passionate commitment to the task still ends up circling you back through the familiar waters..
Every four years this truth is excruciatingly re-illustrated as the American political process incites a fresh crop of rudderless wanderers to ponder the what. “What do you think is good or right? What is true or important? What do you think about this particular candidate or position?” But when these stirred up emotions, intentions and passions encounter a violent and prevailing headwind of culture all hope for truth seems lost.
For those steering a rudderless vessel the relative truth of any given what can easily knock you off the charted path. “Fake news” an existential cultural threat because people believe and share what they read. If you find yourself tossed about the open sea why not find a rudder?
What is Culture?
For many, why we think what we think is largely a product of our culture. Culture is a powerful and often times unexamined “rudder” steering thought, beliefs, and actions. I find the Dictionary.com definition of both the anthropological and biological aspects of the term quite helpful:
Anthropology: the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another.
Biology: the cultivation of microorganisms, as bacteria, or of tissues, for scientific study, medicinal use, etc. The product or growth resulting from such cultivation.
The biological aspect of the term provides critical insight. Many times culture is an artificial creation. We have thousands of ideas and agreements from years of reading, thinking and speaking. These seemingly insignificant “microorganisms” grow into a powerful guiding narrative. This narrative guiding thought process and behavior is rarely understood by those who hold it. But once entrenched in the mind, few find the moral clarity necessary to illuminate and rewrite their internal stories.
But we can create a new narrative by growing a more life giving cultural organism. In Redemptive Trilateral Cultures I examine the primary tenants of a new kind of redemptive culture; one which provides a much needed rudder and helps steer us into meaningful conversation and genuine understanding.