On Earthbound I was asked to put down on paper what type of culture that I wanted to cultivate. At first I thought that this would be a simple enough exercise in coming up with a few different ways of “be nice and also try to get a lot out of Earthbound”. There were, of course, the usual and obvious cultural ideals: kindness, mindfulness and emotional sensitivity. But, as we started talking about exactly how these ideals should be carried out we came across some problems. First, the idea that we should have a happy community. After all, we will be going and seeing first hand the plight of refugees in Greece. Being happy seems like the wrong response. So, maybe we should be happy within reason and allow for more depth and range of emotions. In that way I and other Earthbound students wrote down cultural ideals that became more subtle and thoughtful as we discussed and exchanged ideas.
But, how important is it to put down on paper how we should act? After all, wouldn’t a culture form regardless of what is written down on paper? And, how likely is it that we go back later to check on our progress?
The importance of putting down cultural ideals for a new group of people does not come for the specific words put down or from the dedication to them. As time passes those ideals may become flexible or be abandoned as the need arises. But, by putting down on paper the ideals and values we are able to both internalize and give deep thought to how we should comport ourselves within a tight knit group and as global citizens.