Personal Change — 15 Comments

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  4. Rachel,
    I hope I wasn’t discouraging. Don’t be too hard on yourself, there’s nothing foolish or naive in seeking to transform our environment, and interconnectedness is certainly key. Everyone should be as motivated to face this – provided we don’t fall into any of the traps that we’re so good at setting for ourselves. Expecting that transformation of external conditions alone will make all horses drink is unrealistic though, internal conditions must change too. Although solutions often seem complicated, there are very many simple things one can do to create a positive environment for oneself and others. Include yourself in your wish for better conditions, it’s not selfish to give yourself what you need to grow. Stay inspired!

  5. Btw, thanks for all your questions, Richard! I’ve been pondering especially your last set since yesterday because these are important things to keep in mind. I don’t want to become one of those ivory-tower academicians who think that the world would be saved if only they’d listen to him/her. And I certainly don’t want to create another religion! Sometimes I think that my whole undertaking is foolish, or naive, or arrogant. And then I see trash lining the streets and realize just how much needs to change and feel discouraged. Overall, I also want to keep in mind what Putnam emphasizes over and over: There are no easy solutions to complicated problems.

  6. Richard: The person – me, in this case – who will develop the vision needs to keep in mind that everything is interconnected. That’s what I mean. If you would like to understand interconnectedness deeply, go for it. This post is not outlining what you should or should not do. It is outlining what I intend to do. I don’t intend to tell people what they should or should not believe or do. I am attempting to figure out how we can safe the planet. One way I think we might have a chance is to stop focusing on the growth of our own money and our economy (I am not quite sure what you mean by “society’s growth”…). I suggest that we are so focused on that because we’re trying to meet needs, needs that used to be met by community. If that is correct, maybe there is a way of rekindling the communal connections, which will make it unnecessary (or less necessary) to attempt to fill those needs with stuff – a way that doesn’t work. In some ways, this will build on the ideas of Robert Putnam in “Bowling Alone.”

  7. Ok Rachel, but if all things are interconnected, and society is just a collection of “I’s” then why is it that the prescription for society’s growth is so different from any one of it’s members? Who is it that needs to understand our interconnectedness, social psychologists, or some other scientists? If I don’t need to understand interconnectedness, not deeply, or not at all even, will these elite intellectuals, or some other subset of society provide us/me with the ‘vision’ and tell us/me how to act in accordance with principals that will ensure society’s growth as a whole so that instead of harming others or preventing growth we/I can act in a way consistent with society’s growth as a whole? Sounds exactly like religion to me, though very well disguised.

  8. Richard: My write-up above is meant to illustrate what I intend to do in graduate school. It is not meant as a prescription for personal change, as you seem to take it: You personally do not need to develop a deep understanding of interconnectedness. The “deep understanding” is meant to be an element of the vision I seek to develop. Contrast this with our current growth philosophy that seems to ignore that things are interconnected. “Depth of understanding” is meant as a process and as an indication of how important it is to keep interconnectedness in mind. If you find this confusion, such scrap the word “deep” in the last sentence: “This redefinition, though, requires a vision of a new way that is grounded in a deep understanding of our interconnections but does not need religious concepts.”

  9. Thanks Rachel,
    Changing my perspective from a selfish one to one focused on others seems to show me in every moment how interconnected everything is. I agree that living every moment this way is not as simple as changing my initial perspective, but once priorities are re-set, well, it’s almost effortless. I don’t want to wake up one day and realize it is too late to change something critical and who knows how long it may take to develop the requisite “deep understanding”? What to do in the meantime? What if I never develop a deep enough understanding?

  10. Richard: In order for us to change society for the better – i.e., live in a way that’s sustainable in the long-run, we need to understand that we’re all interconnected. This understanding of interconnection is important not to make the change but to live it: The vision needs to be grounded in this understanding of interconnection…

  11. Hi again,
    I found it interesting that you believe changing our priorities requires a “deep understanding of our interconnections”. It always seems to me that changing our priorities leads to this, plus it can be done instantly and with no prerequisites, but that’s just my experience. Perhaps I’m impatient~

  12. Thank you all! 🙂 I’ll keep you posted on my new learnings – for now, I am pestering Governator Schwarzenegger about his ill-placed priorities. SF State had to increase fees twice for the fall semester because the State doesn’t feel it’s necessary to adequately fund education… It’s only the future we’re not supporting, so who cares. At least, there are no new taxes – that’s what counts!

  13. That’s fantastic, Rachel! It seems like just a few days ago (well, actually it was!) that we were talking about how important it is to do something that you really find meaningful. I’m so glad you’re going to pursue that! Your writing is consistently provocative, insightful, challenging, and progressive. I think you’ll make a wonderful professor of philosophy!

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