When it comes to culture – all the ideas, images, thoughts we’re entertaining in our minds – I often find myself wondering if we really know what we’re doing. I mean, we can think and watch all manner of things, but where does it lead us and is that wise?
I suppose it comes down to the significance of what we have in mind. Does it matter? Are our heads simply these filters, these torchlights or screens where it’s really not important what’s passing in front of or through them? If something’s “out there”, are we right to take it all in and reflect upon it or is there some need for discernment in how we’re directing our thoughts? (Notes One)
It seems important to question how we’re using our minds. Clearly, they’re there. Like it or not, they’re constantly absorbing and processing all that’s going on around us – drawing conclusions, forming opinions, having reactions, awakening memories, all these often-subconscious internal processes whereby “the mind” apparently seeks to help us make sense of life.
Within all that, we then have “culture” which seems to be this more intentional collective process of reflection that’s, in some way, seen to serve society as well as individuals (Notes Two). It’s seemingly this place where we mull over all that’s gone before and all that might follow; pulling together all these ideas from society, different times and places, and arranging them differently to see what meaning might emerge.
It’s perhaps this space where people with a degree of vision identify those issues concerning society, placing them into some form of relief so we’re better able to notice their significance and how they relate to what’s around them. It’s a strange process, in many ways, and hard to pin down. But it’s surely some form of thought, as we attempt to make sense of and respond to our world.
And maybe its value then lies in those responses? That added layer of interpretation, awareness or conversation that serves to mitigate or mediate its influence? Almost a process of digestion, whereby we reflect upon what’s actually being said about society and what our response to that should actually be. This potentially highly significant additional stage of mental processing (Notes Three).
Otherwise, what exactly are we allowing into our minds? All these images of society’s problems, risks, challenges, and so forth? So many depictions of disaster, evil, conflict or disregard for the value of life. Of course, that’s not all that’s there, but it certainly seems to form an increasingly large proportion of what’s offered within modern culture.
What does it mean to see such images and entertain such thoughts? Is it priming us with fear, readying us to see society’s ideals falling further into disrepair, or calling up in us a sense of awareness and commitment that might lead us to defend such principles? If our minds are the places we make sense of life and decide on our courses of action, are we truly using them wisely?
Notes and References:
Note 1: What are we thinking?
Note 1: Who should we trust?
Note 1: What’s neutral?
Note 2: Culture as reflection
Note 2: It resonates, but should it be amplified
Note 2: Reference points for how we’re living
Note 2: Truth, illusion & cultural life
Note 2: Playing with fire?
Note 3: Do we need meaning?
Note 3: The sense of having a worldview
Note 3: Ideas the tie things together
Going even further back, Plato & “The Republic” held some interesting thoughts about the power of ideas.