Wednesday, December 31, 2008

We Make a Difference

If enough people were to believe that the future is at least partly in their hands, the prospect of survival would be greatly enhanced...for... a person is unlikely to take risks and work for the common good unless he or she believes that it will make a difference.
-Mihaly Csikszentmihali (1993), philosopher

Some of the very first Europeans to colonize North America, the Calvanist Puritans, believed human destiny, both individual and collective was pre-determined by God. Yet, they functioned day-by-day on principles of personal responsibility. Their responsible behavior, supported by the belief that godly people behaved well, kept neighbors on their toes. All wanted to be judged as good; Puritans rarely misbehaved.
Today many Americans are more likely to believe future possibilities are determined by genes than by pre-historic actions of God. We ponder on which genes will manifest and which will remain genotypal.
Yet, we intuitively know genes cannot hold all secrets. We are just just beginning to scratch the surface of genetic determinism and all else that contributes to human success. The idea that each person can and does make a difference in her life and that of innumerable others, through actions, is still strong today. Humans need to believe they make a difference; humans find meaning in their perceived choices, and meaning after all, is what the good life brims over with.
So we continue to discuss the role of nature versus nature, of genes versus environment, of family background versus serendipidous opportunities. Because what we do everyday, needs to make a dent in our universe. What a beautiful idea to hold and foster at the dawn of a New Year.

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