My involvement in social media has taught me many things, but likely the most important lesson is what a huge role perception plays in "virtual conversations". Over the past two years, I have achieved a tremendous amount of personal growth by being exposed to the truly broad range of ideas and thoughts of other bloggers.
Last week, as I read Lisa Sharp's post here on BlogHer, this point was vividly driven home. While Lisa and I exchanged thoughts in the comment section, it became apparent that although our perceptions were very different, we also shared common ground. In the days following the interaction, I spent a lot of time soul-searching and thinking about the uniqueness of individuals and the different kinds of smart.
My own daughters are a beautiful example of this. My oldest has read "Gone With the Wind" three times and has the first page of "A Tale of Two Cities" memorized. She took the ACT as a seventh grader and qualified for the National Duke TIP program. She loves history and geography and can likely rattle off the capitol of any country in the world.
Yet, when I take her to the feed yard and ask her to chain the gate, she gets a lost look on her face. That same look appears as I request that she move a group of cattle out of the home pen or to tell me which animal does not look like he feels well. It resurfaces again as I show her a gate latch that is broken and ask her how she would fix it.
My oldest daughter is a gifted intellectual. Her verbal skills are nothing short of incredible, and she will no doubt become a great debater and philosopher. However, she is greatly challenged by practical problem solving skills.
My middle daughter is quite different from her sister. She loves patterns and puzzles, and is a gifted cowgirl. She has an innate understanding of animals, and a wonderful ability to solve problems fluidly even while under pressure.
She has little interest in memorizing world geography or debating passages from books, but she is your “go to” girl when you are sorting cattle and need someone to calmly and efficiently work the gate for cattle to travel into different pens.
Just like any other two individuals, my daughters are unique and have natural strengths and weaknesses. They are a beautiful blend of their father (the intellectual farmer) and I (the psychologist turned cattle caregiver). As I look around my community, I see the same eclectic blend of character. I view this very positively because the diversity of talents makes for a very strong culture of people.
The third tier of sustainability is cultural in nature, and some define it as social diligence. Looking at the words separately, social implies togetherness and diligence implies hard work.
Perhaps this means that the successful achievement of sustainability requires both a team effort and hard work at the individual level?
Recognizing the beauty in uniqueness and diversity is a challenge that we face as individuals and as a nation. Realizing that no one is perfect, and also that everyone has something different to offer is sometimes difficult. I believe that listening to understand all of the while recognizing that together we are stronger plays an important role in the discussion of sustainability on a cultural level. Our individual experiences determine our perception and our opinions.
Developing underlying feelings of respect and trust for others creates both a teamwork mentality and the motivation to use our individual talents for the betterment of society.
I love to watch my two oldest girls work together: the intellectual and the practical problem solver. One views the world as a set of words and thoughts to memorize and debate—the other as a set of pictures to put together like pieces of a puzzle. Their minds are so different and, as a result, they make such a powerful team when they work together.
As beautiful as it is to watch them work together, you can likely imagine what happens when they do not respect each other’s differences and struggle to work together as a team. Perhaps you can picture the scenario clearly because you have been in a situation where your perception of the world is vastly different than someone with whom you interact?
Imagine a world where teamwork and individual dedication to greatness come together; that is my picture of cultural sustainability.