Transcending Culture

by Scott Noelle

Imagine you’re visiting a strange culture where people’s perceptions are quite different from what you’re used to.

They’re offended when you shake their hands, and they’re honored when you spit on their feet. They believe that a broken mirror brings good luck, and they compete over who gets the privilege of cleaning the toilets.

After a while, you cease making any assumptions about the goodness or badness, rightness or wrongness of anything.

Now you see a little girl start to hit her mother. You await the mother’s reaction... Will she be offended? Will she be delighted? Will she be indifferent?

In that moment, you yourself have not yet assigned any meaning to the hitting. It just is.

Congratulations! You’ve transcended culture and connected with Reality.

Improve Your Groove

As you observe your child’s behavior today, pretend you’re a stranger in a strange land who doesn’t know what s/he is supposed to think about each behavior. Then choose an interpretation based on how good you feel when you think that thought.

Originally published on 2006-07-14
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