I have been thinking lately about the power of culture…and how it impacts us as individuals.

Culture is, in essence, the rules, norms and expectations that get created when more than 2 people get together on a regular basis. I say more than 2 because when there are only 2 there is more of a ‘relationship’ than a culture. A culture is a highly complex version of a relationship because of its inherently multi-variable nature.

When 3 or more people come together they immediately begin to negotiate with each other. The individuals involved consciously and subconsciously establish rules of engagement, language styles, trust levels, shared beliefs, common agreements, and a host of other mechanisms that allow the group to continue. If these things cannot be established, then the group falls apart.

As a group meets and interacts the methods and agreements solidify to become a ‘culture’ that is, essentially, the sum of the perceived realities of all those involved. Each new person that joins the culture both affects and is affected by the existing shared perceptual reality. A culture, then, is a constantly changing tapestry of realities that has a number of shared themes.

Culture usually happens unconsciously and organically. Individuals come together, interact on a regular basis (either on some shared project or effort), and over time create a culture. Every new person is indoctrinated into the culture and, depending on the openness of that culture, effects the status quo.

Culture can, however, be consciously created or altered if individuals are willing to become aware of the existing cultural patterns and choose what they want to create. I believe that we are constantly being prodded to look at our cultures (family, company, religion, country) and chose those attributes that are most loving and caring. When we experience the horrors of war, environmental destruction, abuse of the weak, etc, we are being asked ‘what type of culture do you choose?’

Look around the world. Look at your own groups. What is YOUR culture as it relates to the world? Is it loving? Is it destructive? Does it enable or disable? Does it judge or accept? You are a part of whatever you see…you have helped to create this by operating within it. Given this, what do you want to create? What do you choose?

-KC Hildreth