A Finely Crafted Life

A Finely Crafted Life
As the Income Explosion drives whole populations up Maslow's hierarchy, cultures will begin, with values, customs, norms and institutions, etc., to emphasize matters of esteem, personal development and self actualization.  The progression up the hierarchy, however, does not suggest a cultural hegemony.  If anything, we see a growing cultural fragmentation and re-coalescence into new, Information Age cultural perspectives.

The cultural differentiation, itself, is exemplified by the struggle to define exactly what is meant by self-actualization.  It seems that people universally see it as something good, but precisely what it is appears elusive.  Below are a few of the many statements made about the self-actualized person.  .]

  • They "can accept their own human nature in the stoic style, with all its shortcomings,"[12] are similarly accepting of others, and generally lack prejudice.
  • Acceptance and Realism: Self-actualized people have realistic perceptions of themselves, others and the world around them.  Self-actualized people possess a sense of realism. Rather than being fearful of things that are different or unknown, the self-actualized individual is able to view things logically and rationally.
  • Problem-centering: Self-actualized individuals are concerned with solving problems outside of themselves, including helping others and finding solutions to problems in the external world.  Self-actualized individuals are often motivated by a strong sense of personal ethics and responsibility. They enjoy solving real-world problems and are often concerned with helping other people improve their own lives.
  • Spontaneity: Self-actualized people are spontaneous in their internal thoughts and outward behavior. While they can conform to rules and social expectations, they also tend to be open and unconventional.
  • Autonomy and Solitude: Another characteristic of self-actualized people is the need for independence and privacy. While they enjoy the company of others, these individuals need time to focus on developing their own individual potential.  The self-actualized individual does not conform to other people's ideas of happiness or contentment. This original perspective allows the individual to live in the moment and appreciate the beauty of each experience.  Self-actualized individuals value their privacy and enjoy solitude. While they also love the company of others, taking time to themselves is essential for personal discovery and cultivating individual potential.
  • Continued Freshness of Appreciation: Self-actualized people tend to view the world with a continual sense of appreciation, wonder and awe. Even simple experiences continue to be a source of inspiration and pleasure.
  • Self-actualization is also characterized by having frequent peak experiences. What exactly is a peak experience? According to Maslow, these "Feelings of limitless horizons opening up to the vision, the feeling of being simultaneously more powerful and also more helpless than one ever was before, the feeling of ecstasy and wonder and awe, the loss of placement in time and space with, finally, the conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened, so that the subject was to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences."
  •  A Philosophical Sense of Humor:  Self-actualized individuals generally have a thoughtful sense of humor. They are able to enjoy the humor in situations and laugh at themselves, but they do not ridicule or make fun at the expense of another person's feelings.
To a signficant degree we see that the notion of self-actualization seems to express cultural values as much as notions of expressing one's unique character through one's life and actions.  In other words, the self-actualized person is the person who most closely approximates the values of the culture to which he or she belongs.  Since this is a matter of contention, as the emphasis moves upward, any semblance of cultural hegemony within and throughout Western civilization will be lost.  This will happen for structural reasons relating to the decoupling of memic propagation and geography as well as basic differences in human perspectives.  

So, for our purposes we define self-actualization as the process of creating life experiences and circumstances that are proper expressions of one’s unique manifestation of human potential rather than those dictated by necessity or the expectations of others.  Such a definition properly frees us from the categorical statements so frequently made with regard to self-actualization.  

Rather, depending upon the character, interests, culture and moral values of an individual, varying combinations of the previous traits may or may not define self actualization for that person.  This places a large measare of responsibility, even within clearly defined cultural communities, upon the individual to create a personally relevant definition.  So, from a purely practical perspective, a methodology for determining what self-actualization means for each individual is required. 

The analysis of a pursuit of a finely crafted life is a distinctly Information Age way of thinking and, as such, is far from fully developed or even well explored. We begin with the concept that life is experienced through various modalities. An identification and description of these modalities, however, is intrinsically difficult.  The human spirit and motivational suite is a spectrum, not a set of discreet factors.  Yet, as a rainbow is a spectrum but is perceived to be comprised of distinct colors, the notion of experiential modalities also can be usefully segmented.  We propose a preliminary list, in alphabetical order, as follows: 

  • Aesthetic
  • Creative
  • Intellectual
  • Kinesthetic
  • Procreative
  • Productive
  • Sensual
  • Social
  • Spiritual
  • Status. 

Because it is preliminary and, to a degree, arbitrary, we expect that others will create somewhat different lists.  However, the list is useful for elaborating on the concept.

Each person, based upon their unique character, has a specific preference as to the degree of each modality they wish to experience in their life. The structural analysis of these modalities and one’s sense of self-actualization are inextricably linked.  A modality that is under-experienced contributes to a person’s sense of under-fulfillment.  When a modality is over-experienced a person may feel stressed, harried.  When this happens a person frequently will say that they feel like they aren’t leading the life that they are meant to lead. On the other hand, a balance between actual and preferred modalities creates a sense of self-actualization and a feeling that one’s life experiences are personally appropriate.  In other words, the person with a finely crafted life feels that they are prosecuting it in a way that expresses their uniqueness.
Clearly, A Finely Crafted Life is a highly personalized thing. One person may feel the need for a very high expression of the Aesthetic in order to feel fulfilled.  A different person may have little need there but will desire a significant expression of the Intellectual. Therefore, designing a A Finely Crafted Life necessarily begins with great attention to acquiring self knowledge.  As part of that search for self knowledge, the person will ask and answer the question, “Which modalities are personally the most important for me and which do I need to experience to no more than a minor degree?”   From this self knowledge, one can consider how appropriately each is currently being expressed and what strategies may facilitate a more self-actualizing expression.

From this is derived the concept of modality vehicles.  For example, a job can, at a minimum, provide a vehicle for the expression of Intellectual, Productive, Social, Status and Creative modalities.  An avocation could fulfill nearly any combination of modalities.  Time spent with family can, depending upon the activity, also can provide a vehicle for nearly nearly limitless combinations of modalities.  Consequently, we consider these activities as opportunities to experience, in varying measures, several modalities.

We do not refer to balancing work and personal life.  Rather we speak of balancing modalities and then strategically selecting vehicles through which the modalities are experienced in such a way as to create life balance.  We readily admit that, in the Industrial Age, work was an especially important vehicle, since, in addition to providing significant opportunities to express many modalities, it also enabled or limited one’s ability to finance utilization of other vehicles that satisfied a broad spectrum of  modalities.   

Consequently, in the Industrial Age, many people found themselves selecting jobs that were highly enabling (paid well) and came to ‘need’ their jobs for its enabling characteristics rather than for the modality expression needs they provided.   Because of this, the requirements of jobs that satisfactorily enabled other vehicles of modality experience, also demanded degrees of modality experience that resulted in a lifestyle that, in its totality, could not be brought into modality balance. 

The imminent Information Age income explosion and related reduction in unfulfilling, but necessary, career and domestic tasks, will completely change how we view work as a fulfilling, rather than enabling, activity.  While work will be essential to membership in the knowledge class, its emphasis will decrease for most people.  It will become more appropriately chosen as a vehicle for experiencing life modalities rather than a source of consumption rights.  Simultaneously, changes in life structure allowed by the preponderance of ‘live anywhere’ careers will facilitate an integration of work with one's other life activities. 

As a profoundly affluent Knowledge Class emerges, its members will begin to focus more directly upon how to craft a life that provides them with their unique expression of modality distribution.  Those with a strong productive need will emphasize productive activities. Those with a strong intellectual need will spend more time learning and discussing.

As the concept of A Finely Crafted Lifeacannot be divorced from the emerging Information Age affluence, it also cannot be divorced from the emerging extended years of life.  It cannot be separated from the receding significance of geographic or national identity.  Theemergence of smaller, culturally homogenous, communities will significantly alter how we think of our social place.  Each of these aspects of the Transformation, though not directly related to a Finely Crafted Life, enables it.   

We will undoubtedly construct robots to clean our houses, keep our lawns and gardens carefully manicured, prepare complex gourmet meals for us, etc.  In a way, we will become the ultimate slave owning class, save that, since the slaves in a demonstrable way, will have no objection to their status, there will be no moral dimension.  The combination of shorter, more self-actualizing hours spent in a career, combined with the removal of domestic demands upon our time, will lead to a lifestyle of signficant leisure. 

We suggest the following exercise. Using a spreadsheet, list each of the ten modalities across the top and assign to each a value between 1 and 10 describing how important it is to you. Now list each activity that you engage in that contributes to your experience to each modality. Rate it on how much it contributes to each modality. You will undoubtedly discover that you are under experiencing some and over experiencing others.  Most people will discover that, generally, their life is not currently finely crafted.  The need to find ways and means to transform their life to fit their values and lifestyle preferences. 

This will require a kind of implementation plan.  The planning process will be, to a significant degree, highly personal.  However, it will almost always involve education, consultation, association and promotion.  

It is nearly impossible to overstate the importance of proper associations in the Information Age.  These will come in at least two varieties.  The first is a personal network.  The second is membership in enabling and facilitative organizations.  They both take work, though the first is more a sweat equity and the second is generally a moderate monetary expenditure.  Lastly, while self-promotion was important in the Industrial Age, it will be even more important in the Information Age.

One of the first, if not the first, task might therefore be to determine what Culture of Affluence is most appropriate for you.  If it exists, you should join it.  It will be a primary tool, in all four respects, to designing and creating your Finely Crafted Life.  More likely in the early stages of The Transformation, it will not.  Consequently, you will likely become a Founder. 

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