We shape ourselves
to fit this world
and by this world
are shaped again.
and the invisible
in common cause,
From Working Together by David Whyte
I am molded by the world around me even as I mold it to fit my view. When I’m in a group of like-minded people, there is an unspoken agreement about what is acceptable and what isn’t. According to Seth Godin, this is culture: “People like us do things like this.” Being with others like myself feels comfortable and natural. It allows me to be myself. And yet, it can also prevent me from seeing that there are others who think differently. It can bring out the worst in me instead of the best.
This ability to mold the world can be a negative force if I insist that the way I see things is the “right” way and others who believe differently are just wrong, or refuse to see the truth. I can deny beliefs that don’t fit into the way I want to look at the world and surround myself with others who agree. This amplifies and repeats my beliefs so that other ways of thinking and being aren’t able to enter the insular world I’ve created.
On the other hand, culture can be a force for good. When I strive to do my best work and act with generosity and acceptance, I am an example for others. But in order to truly live that out myself, I need to surround myself with others who are also living out their mission. We all support each other in our common goal of making the world a better place. The “visible” Whyte refers to are the people and the physical results of their actions; the “invisible” are the intentions and beliefs that drive those actions. Together they can create the miraculous. This is the culture I try to build: people like us do things like this so that even more people can live out their mission.