What if we used culture as a way of thinking about caring?
This wouldn't be new. One of the early uses of the term culture is 'agriculture' - this is about nurturing, strong growth, tending to development, and working with natural rhythms.
In this decode we seek strategies that enable us to help each other, the planet, and ourselves, thrive.
Embrace multidimensional wellness
Wellness is best approached holistically. The following visualisation maps the different dimensions of wellness (remembered with the acronym EPISODES):
We can then turn these aspects into questions:
- Emotional: do they cope well with other people and the world in general?
- Physical: do they have regular activity and a healthy diet?
- Intellectual: do they benefit from new learning challenges?
- Spiritual: do they feel comfortable with their beliefs, values and ethics?
- Occupational: are they finding fulfilment and balance with work?
- Digital: do they have unhealthy habits with digital media?
- Environmental: are they in harmony with their surroundings and the natural world?
- Social: do they have opportunities to cultivate friendships, belong to communities, and make new connections?
Strategy: help people become more personally sustainable by thinking about how two or more of these aspects interrelate.
Grow an emotional vocabulary
We need to learn a new language of care.
By creating an emotional vocabulary, we expand our ability to empathise and sympathise with others, as well as increase our ability to comprehend emotionally complex situations.
Tiffany Watt Smith has produced a beautiful book that elucidates, through both art and science, the rich depth of human emotions. This is useful resource to leave on the table during workshops :
This approach is an essential corrective to more quantified approaches to emotion (for example the use of cameras and AI to read and interpret facial recognition). Instead, this approach invites you to think of different emotions as characters in an ongoing drama: always changing and always in motion.
Strategy: with a developed emotional vocabulary, we can begin articulating emotional infrastructures. A 'mattering map' exercise gives an overview of the emotional landscape connected to issues, events or ideas.
Ease cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance is when your actions and behaviour are in conflict with your thoughts and beliefs. The below diagram serves as a useful illustration…
Strategy: Coming soon
There are many motivations for indulgence. From a sense of deservedness, to a treat for an emotional upset. Or maybe we want to relax and enjoy a familiar pleasure. Or splurge on a special occasion. Sometimes we want to rebel against good behaviour. Other times we want to experiment with novelty. Or perhaps use indulgence as a status symbol.
Indulgence is evolving. 'Clean' hedonism is sin without cost. The idea that you can have it all - satisfy that craving for comfort whilst maintaining clean living. There is no longer a trade-off between indulgence and wellness. Between hedonism and utility. Between the joy of the moment and making life comfortable. This is not about diet and sacrifice, but about crafting a new and disruptive approach to pleasure.
Central to this shift is understanding that hedonism is about more than the sensorial. We take pleasure in the social, psychological and ideological environments surrounding hedonic consumption.
Strategy: Much can be learned from food. Artisanal clean comfort food is a space where this new form of pleasure can be understood
Release manacles of the mind
The prophetic poet William Blake, in his poem 'London' (1794), writes of the 'mind forg'd manacles' that living in a city creates. It is a critique of the unimaginative and spirit-shackling mind that city-life creates for dwellers. The poem itself is written unimaginatively, repeating the same words over and over.
The critique of the city is a major theme in much cultural production. One of the foundational texts of Cultural Studies was Raymond William's book 'The Country and the City'. It makes us ask: is rural virtue the solution to urban vice? Or is that too simple an idea?
All of us have a complex set of associations with these two realms. City dwellers feel a deep need to escape the grey buildings and be surrounded by trees, and people in towns come to the city for excitement and variety.
Strategy: Use the tension between the rural and the urban in a workshop to stretch the imagination. Force yourself to resist simple utopian/dystopian contrasts, and surface points of hybridity where these two worlds mix
Create or join a collective
A collective is not a community. Collectives are more resilient.
Whilst communities can be a part of a collective, the collective remains when communities fall apart. They are based on ideas.
Collectives have an explicit purpose, whereas a community is something sensed. This shifts the focus from community ‘belonging’ to collectivist ‘collaboration’. There is direction and intentionality.
The focus of a collective is on the growth and agency of the individual, whereas communities ask people to sacrifice for something bigger than themselves.
They do this by providing people with tools and resources. This makes them competitive. People can simply choose to join another collective. There isn’t the intensity of meaning that gives communities their stickiness.
And in this sense, they echo market-logic. A collective must work harder to manage individual desire as it competes against other collectives.
And it does this by focusing on values and ideas.
Strategy: think about what type of collective you would like to join. If it doesn't exist, make it
Interview questions to help you think about care:
- What makes you feel anxious?
- What type of learning style works best with you?
- Describe your ideal course of learning
- What is your relationship to drugs?
- Would you say that you are addicted to anything?
- How well do you handle social situations?
- What do you tend to eat, and are you on any type of diet?
- Do you ever take part in any fringe/unique/interesting wellness activities (floatation tanks, gong baths, meditation retreats)?
- What is your view on vegetarian/vegan lifestyles?
- Do you have a fitness regime, do you go to the gym?
- Do you feel that you maintain a good work/life balance?
- What does the word 'love' mean to you?