What is wrong with our culture is that it often offers us an inaccurate conception of the self. It depicts the personal self as existing in competition with and in opposition with and in opposition to nature. We thereby fail to realize that if we destroy our environment, we are destroying what is in fact our larger self.
Lowering consumption need not deprive people of goods and services that really matter. To the contrary, life’ most meaningful and pleasant activities are often paragons of environmental virtue. The preponderance of things that people name as their most rewarding pastimes are infinitely sustainable. Religious practice, conversation, family and community gatherings, theater, music, dance, literature, sports, poetry, artistic and creative pursuits, education, and appreciation of nature all fit readily into a culture of permanence – a way of life that can endure through countless generations.
We can flow along with the mainstream of a culture that does not serve us well – does not really make us comfortable, does not really make us safe; but only offers illusions of happiness, comfort, safety – or we can begin the oftentimes prickly work of searching our own hearts, of asking who and what we love, who and what we feel strongly enough about to change our lives for, to fight for, to live for.
Virtues transcend time and culture (although their cultural expression may vary); justice and kindness, for example, will always and everywhere be virtues, regardless of how many people exhibit them.
The most potent force in the world is an idea which, when organized into a body of concepts, becomes a culture and way of life. Concepts are psychological lenses focusing our experiences. Our physical eyes bring their reports but our conceptual lenses interpret them. If we would “know ourselves” it is a paramount necessity that we should examine critically and impartially our conceptual heritage and endeavor to discover why we accept or reject it.
When nature exceeds culture, we have the rustic. When culture exceeds nature, we have the pedant.
Even though a high IQ is no guarantee of prosperity, prestige, or happiness in life, our schools and our culture fixate on academic abilities, ignoring the emotional intelligence that also matters immensely for our personal destiny.