TIME PLACE CULTURE

Perhaps due to the social and political focus of this era, I often find myself questioning the things that resonate with me based on the time and place I was born, and the culture that I was born into. From Plato to Descartes to Kant to Baudrillard, thinkers throughout history have produced their works based on the progression of thought that preceded them, and the pressing social issues of their generation. This makes sense— our experiences in life constitute our firsthand knowledge of the world— i.e., the things that directly influence our emotions, therefore inspiring irrationality, passion, in our thoughts and actions. Moreover, this tendency extends beyond the subjects of choice of philosophers. Every person is a compilation of their prior experience of existence. We are like the stars in the sky in this way; we look at them and see their past in our present. 

With this in mind, is it not unavoidable to ponder the fact that each person contains only one perspective— their own? As much as we try to learn and experience other things to widen our understanding of the world, we will never truly know what it is to be another consciousness, to truly walk in another man’s shoes? (I suppose this is a bit Freudian in its insistence on the entire specimen analyzed from the starting point of its existence. However, it is generally agreed upon that brain development begins even before birth. “The infant’s s interaction with its environment helps to sculpt inter- and intraregional connections within the cortex, eventually resulting in the highly specialized adult brain.” [Johnson-2001])

With this premise underlined, would that not mean that all that resonates with me is highly biased data? Then, making that leap: is it then impossible to come to philosophical accord with the man from 1432 or my next door neighbor because we have had a different experience of existence from beginning to end? I suppose the question I’m asking is orientated towards there being one truth.

In the regard of one truth, I don’t think this is difficult to pinpoint. Even though popular culture is made to lead astray, even that industry cannot avoid the greatest desire of all humans: love. Everything is about love. In this sense we are not complex at all— all humans require certain elements for survival, and all humans search for in life is love, and loving relationships.

The grey area that humans make complicated for the fact of their humanness is what interests me, however. How do opposites relate, interact? There must be ying for yang. Without contrast there is nothing, this we know. Perhaps this is why the meeting of two opposites is so fascinating. A trivial example is this: a dog who opens its mouth to bark. In your mind you already hear the bark sounding, but instead of a bark you are astounded to hear it let out a chirp like a small bird. You walk into a house on a suburban block and once inside find the whole thing to be a shell, a facade, for a wild jungle growing inside. Bad examples, but am I making sense? This to me is the lovely thing of life. The unexpected, the broken rule, the shamelessly different, the sharp contrast.

Maybe I am pandering to the world, though. Overcomplicating, that is. Reveling in the un-logical. If I was going to write a book it would be just that: interesting interactions and uncanny meetings between opposites. I wish I could leave my consciousness and float into another consciousness to truly understand, to have had that firsthand experience. I think it would be much easier to realize that we are all the same, and that the issue of time, place, and culture is rather trivial, even in the small picture.

The ideas that resonate with me are affected by those locating facts, but I have the power of choice no matter what. Free will is change, as we swing back and forth on the pendulum of contrast. Negating change is inhuman, and perhaps the focus of time, place and culture is a mechanism of boundary setting, to close our minds to only accept that which fits in our earth-bound, culture-dictated “identity”. Foucault said we are free, but our socially, culturally cultivated minds prohibit us from accessing that.

We are able enough to think outside the bounds of this time and what it says, to free ourselves from the flock and go against the grain. Environment will always be a factor, but especially in this age of hyper-globalization, when all views and lifestyles are readily available for our consumption, you get to choose what you want to believe. Nothing is limiting you.

Just some contestable thoughts for today. 🙂

 

http://www-inst.eecs.berkeley.edu/~cs182/sp06/readings/Johnson%20-%202001.pdf

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