Culture, Part II or: It’s Your Birthday? Celebrate Your Culture, Man.

One lingering question from my last post: if we truly are composed of trillions of single-celled Homo sapiens sapiens, how is a single emergent mind, consciousness, and identity possible?

Don’t expect me to answer how the mind or consciousness really works: many scientists have devoted their lives to those questions and still have s*** to show for answers. But I am going to attempt a tangential answer.

Hint: there’s a reason I titled this three-part series “Culture.”

No doubt your mind has now leaped to whatever conception of culture is rattling around, ambiguously undefined, in your head—e.g. “good ole’ American culture” or “I am soo utterly cultured.” Defining ‘culture’ is a whole blog article in itself, and a boring one at that, so let’s trust your definitions for now.

I lied, we need some sort of definition for my purposes. Succinctly, culture is the collective whole of all a group experiences or creates, the whole of which is used as a perceptual and behavioral framework for both their lives and their children’s lives (to whom they pass on the culture.)

Business cultures are an excellent example in that they are often intentional. This is our mission, these our values, our products and services, our brand, our tone and voice, our promotional history, our place in the market, and on and on. The whole of that culture is carried to a degree by each individual employee and frames the way they perceive changes in their environment as well as how they react to those changes. And when a new employee joins the force, it’s time for everyone’s favorite activity: onboarding! But seriously, onboarding is absolutely essential for a business to be successful.

But the thing to remember is that culture is an emergent property of the business environment, which means, philosophically, that the culture is irreducible to its lower component parts. Simply, the entirety of a business culture cannot exist in any single employee, nor can it be fully captured or articulated in any written form. No, a business culture is only complete when you consider the collective contribution of each employee. And though there may be much of what began as intentional features, cultures exist beyond our control (e.g. why it is so difficult to change a bad culture.) Culture is a mutable entity, neither tangible nor eternal, hovering in our minds and, seemingly, in the air around us.

Now take all that I’ve just said about culture, and apply it to the cells of your body. The emergent culture—your collective experiences and creations used as a perceptual and behavioral framework, which may be passed on, through nature and nurture, to the next generation—would sound like the answer to, “Tell me about yourself. What makes you you?” Is the very foundation of every “I am […]” Is, well, the essence of life itself; what defines us and guides us in all that we do.

Now, culture exists only in part in each individual cell. And yet each cell is necessary. Taken together, they add up to something much much more, something truly beautiful and magnificent. And though your little cells have some control over the culture of you that emerges, that control is minimal.

Which is a hopeless note on which to end this blog post. So stay tuned for the exciting conclusion! “Culture, Part III or: Who Tends the Untendable?”!!!

3 thoughts on “Culture, Part II or: It’s Your Birthday? Celebrate Your Culture, Man.

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