21st century thinking – The Thing that is Bigger than Me

I have been thinking a lot about connectivity recently. It is an important concept because how I connect has a huge impact on my ability to learn. It may even determine my “learnability”. And that may be a key characteristic to finding meaningful work.

What have I found? Connecting is a more ephemeral concept than we might think. All sorts of issues arise relating to why we connect, how we connect and what we connect with. So it is no huge surprise that when we discuss “connectivity” in human experience, we get lost.

I think that Csikszentmihalyi and Robinson help us take a bit step forward by focusing on one aspect of the process. They both argue that the starting point is within us. To build better social connections, we need to do some preliminary work with ourselves. Both authors suggest that there is a hierarchy of connections. And the most powerful ones — the ones we want more of — are those where we lose ourselves in. Robinson says these are experiences in a domain that we are passionate about and where we have some aptitude. Of course, assessing aptitude and passion raise matters of interpretation. But we can and should develop our sensitivity to why we connect to certain domains.

Put another way, why are some things much bigger than we are? That is a good question and one that concerns us nearly every day. Those things that are bigger than we are either pull us into crisis or are our path to salvation. And yet, culture — at least western culture — keeps telling us that we must be ourselves bigger. Our individual selves matter more than what is outside of us. We need to be “heroes” and we want to look and act like heroes, eternally young, attractive, witty, and having fun.

See the clash? If indeed, we will make progress using higher levels of connectivity to build smarter societies, we will have to become a bit less self-absorbed.

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