Friday, March 11, 2016

Don't just do something, stand there! Nothing and Thriving


Our culture constructs a reality where we are not allowed to just be. We must be doing at all times; it is valuing personal achievement, time, work, competition, materialism and success. Note that happiness is never a apart of the equation.  The hegemonic assumption is that happiness simply comes with those values.  See this post about happiness and it's relationship to money.  Contrast these values with the values that Michael Buettner writes about in his book Thrive.  What are the lessons you learned from Thrive?  How would you like to live your life differently after reading this?  What would be a message you would like to share with the rest of your classmates who don't have the privilege of being in our class?

Bernard McGrane's experiment explores the idea of doing nothing in American culture. In his book, The Un-Tv and the 10mph Car he explores doing nothing as a way of being able to detach and see all that is actually going on - both in others and in ourselves. By detaching from the social world, can you see the ways the world controls who you are? We go about our daily lives without question drifting along doing the things that we do. We never have to stop and think about why we are doing what we do and whether we want to do that. Some of the questions McGrane addresses are: How did you react and what occurred to you in being unoccupied? How did the world around you react to doing nothing? How does this relate our work to our identity? See this link for a discussion guide to the nothing experiment. This is from McGrane's book. If you don't know why we did that experiment please read it!
The last point about work and identity reminds me of how Americans get acquainted with one another. The first question is usually "What is your name?" (usually answered very individualistically with the first name.) And the next question is usually "What do you do?" This highlights the importance of job and work identity. What does this mean for teens who might not have a job or parents who spend their days taking care of children and making a home. It is a sad message. An example of a different way that some cultures do these introductions is something someone from Australia told me. He said they get acquainted by asking "Where have you been?" So the focus is more on one's previous life experiences and travels. Another example is described in Richard Strozzi Heckler's book Holding the Center. In it, he describes a group of presenters at a health conference who were introducing themselves,
The distinguished men and women described their degrees, awards, publications, university positions, and their current research. The sixth person was an Ojibway Native American who introduced himself first by naming his tribe and family lineage and then describing in specific detail the land in which he and his tribe lived. He spoke of his relatives, many generations back on both sides of his family, who his sisters, brothers, and children married, his relationship with his aunts and uncles, and then the birds, fish and animals, the trees, rivers, lakes. He finished by saying, "this is who I am." He then politely requested that others provide the same information.


This is a marvelous example of other ways of defining their identity. Whereas Americans would define their identity based on their individuality and that would have a strong focus on their job, others (like the example above) would define their identity by their community and where they came from. It is much more communal than individual and less focused on your individual role. Finally,Here is a funny video of a group that appears to do nothing, but they are actually doing "freezing". For the purposes of McGrane's experiment, they are not detached, but it is funny nonetheless to watch.

Our culture constructs a reality where we are not allowed to just be. We must be doing at all times; it is valuing personal achievement, time, work, competition, materialism and success. Note that happiness is never a apart of the equation.  The hegemonic assumption is that happiness simply comes with those values.  See this post about happiness and it's relationship to money.  Contrast these values with the values that Michael Buettner writes about in his book Thrive.  What are the lessons you learned from Thrive?  How would you like to live your life differently after reading this?  What would be a message you would like to share with the rest of your classmates who don't have the privilege of being in our class?

3 comments:

  1. dude wow! that is such a cool thing! i love how people dont know how to react. we have been so trained to see life in action and then this happends.
    -SHaily

    ReplyDelete
  2. when i did this activitiy i felt as if i was not part of the room. it was almost as if when you see a slow motion scene in a movie and all you see is that character at a stop and everyone else moving around him. it was crazy

    ReplyDelete
  3. When I did this activity, I remember lots of people staring at me. I felt as if I was in my own little world because I wasn't paying attention to what people thought of me.

    ReplyDelete