When we put together “all that we do” – all the annual seasons of nature, finance and culture, with all we arrange around them – it’s interesting to see how it all goes into making up our individual and collective lives. These daily habits of living that become our patterns of consumption, activity and conversation.
All of our choices effectively coming together into these vast, interwoven systems that now spread through, and far beyond, our local and national boundaries. It’s all so personal and so connected: every decision we actively or passively make rippling out and, somewhere, meeting the shore of another’s life. Perhaps that’s always been the case; but never quite like this (Notes One).
In so many ways, the personal feeds into the collective: habitual responses weaving together to form society, all its struggles and its strengths (Notes Two). Conceivably, every little thing “counts” and adds up to quite substantial differences within that reality. All the subtleties of our awareness, intention and attitude toward one another surely soften the edges of common life or serve to roughen them up?
However we look at it, our choices generally accumulate into discernible patterns on the larger scale. And it seems we’re frighteningly predictable – quickly making almost anything a habit, even if much of it’s slipped in beyond our conscious understanding. It’s like we’re forever seeking this formula for “how to live” through all the systems, rhythms and routines of our existence.
Life may well “be” our patterns of behaviour: the rhythms of the human lifespan, the activities we place within it, then the filtered-down reality of our everyday tasks. Weaving within them, the rhythm of our own personal character and attitude toward it all – toward others, the responsibility of our choices, and the power of influence we’re bringing to bear on the world around us.
As humans, then, we’re perhaps standing somewhere between the strong “pull” of habitual subconscious behaviour and the burdensome clarity of thought (Notes Three). If we were to live completely from our rational mind, life would surely become quite draining? Every decision actively requiring conscious attention might seriously hamper things. But operating out of unexamined habit doesn’t seem that much better.
What is the right balance? Because, given the nature of modern systems, the human, social and natural costs of our actions seem to be skyrocketing – everything’s so coordinated and fast-paced that damage can be done before we’re even aware. If we’re not alert to the dangers or realities of choices we’re making, might we not inadvertently contribute to problems we’d never knowingly take part in?
And many seem to be investing heavily in bypassing our conscious attention to guide those choices. With all the social and psychological research behind technology, whole swathes of human activity potentially become quite controllable. Some of that might “innocently” fall within the realm of manufacturing demand, but that’s not all that’s going on.
A little off track, my point’s really that – aware or not – all our choices inevitably add up to something.
Notes and References:
Note 1: The idea of think globally, act locally
Note 1: Having boundaries
Note 1: Social starting points for modern ways
Note 2: Reading into social realities?
Note 2: Society as an imposition?
Note 2: Right to look out for ourselves?
Note 3: Questions around choice
Note 3: Ways thought adds spin to life
Note 3: One thing leads to another
Alongside all this, “The Tipping Point” very much considers this question of individual power within collective realities.