In the book A hunter-gatherer’s guide to the 21st century, the authors argue that we are living in a hyper-novel world, where the rate of change is so rapid that our brains, bodies, and social systems are constantly out-of-sync.
In order to survive such overwhelming times, we need to play our part to balance the tension between culture and consciousness.
So what is culture and what is consciousness?
The authors describe culture as ancient wisdom, all the habitual behaviors and norms that guide our lives, and that become traditions that get passed from one generation to the other. Consciousness, on the other hand, is new insights, new ideas and ways of life that one might want to consider in order to break free from culture. Consciousness and culture are always in tension with each other, just like chaos and order.
Humanity needs both. To have a functional society, we need both people who want to stay the course, and people who want to break free from it and try new paths.
This model implies that in times of stability, people should be more conservative and listen to old wisdom, and in times of great change, people should be more progressive and be prone to take risks and try new things.
So why is this important?
It’s clear that today we live in a time of great change. Just think about how the Internet, smartphones, and social media have already transformed our lives in the span of only a few decades. That’s just the beginning: more technological disruption is around the corner.
However, too many people in our society are still too inclined towards culture, and the legacy mindset of not wanting to change. They hope that everything will stay the same and continue as planned.
I believe that’s delusional and dangerous. This is not the time to play it safe. We need more people to acknowledge that, as the author writes, “a call to consciousness is more urgent than ever.”
We need innovators, pioneers, trailblazers. People who are willing push the boundaries, experiment with things and bring new insights to the conversation. If the new ideas test well against reality, we can turn them into new behavior that eventually gets passed onto the next generations as culture.
How does this idea apply to our life? Well, we could experiment with unconventional careers, new lifestyles or embrace new technologies, to then bring back the lessons of what we learn. Sure, many experiments will fail, many paths will lead to nowhere. But failure is still a success if we learn what not to do, what not to integrate. Individual failure still benefits society as a whole.
The tension between culture and consciousness has definitely played a role in my journey. A few years ago I also felt this conflict inside, wondering: “Should I stay the course and get a regular job and an apartment like everyone else?”, like the culture would tell me to do, or “should I jump into the unknown, and figure things out on my own?”.
Luckily, I chose the latter. For me it was about trying remote work, the Digital Nomad life, and embracing a career as a creator that maybe my grandpa doesn’t understand, but could lead to better opportunities in the future. I share what I learn along the way, it's my small contribution to bring new insights to our culture.
I believe we need more people to do the same, regardless of what life choices you want to make. Even if you’re already on a more traditional path such as having a family, you can still push the boundaries by experimenting with new schooling systems, or parenting styles. Every bit helps.
If you have some savings, a good education, and a national welfare system that could support you, then you’re in a better position to take some risks in your life. And if you have the privilege to take some risks in your life, then you have more responsibility to do it. If we are not going to take some risks, who is going to?
So go ahead, take some risks, try new paths and share what you learn along the way. You contribution is very much needed!