The Cognitive Revolution in humankind could be considered the defining moment for our species. The behavior of all other animals has been determined by their DNA, their environment, and genetic mutations over time to adapt to environment (the concept of Evolutionary Biology). Human evolution has been driven not by DNA mutation but via cognition and use of cognition for environmental adaptation and advances in human productivity.
The Cognitive Revolution in humankind created the ability to think and communicate ideas with the nuance of language, the ability to gossip for social cooperation, and to talk about things that don’t exist. The ability to have collective stories and common myths formed a collective imagination- the idea of an Imagined Reality. These invented stories (Imagined Reality) became shared beliefs and truths.
Imagined Realities, stories or myths created from nothing, included the creation of gods, laws/doctrines, and other imagined concepts (like the concept of money). It began the formation of social stratification – social stories to support creation of castes/hierarchies and who has power, who should not have power. These created stories and myths established moral codes and correct behaviors for social order and hierarchy. Behaviors were then maintained through the establishment of customs and both formal and informal justice systems (social punishment, laws, oppression, exploitation).
There is a curious aside question for me – was the Cognitive Revolution (possibly the most significant step of humankind evolution) the act of a Divine Being or merely a biological mutation? Most religions assert that we (humans) are ordained by an absolute, supreme, or divine authority and then the religion creates doctrines (imagined realities) that align with that divine authority which establish moral codes of behaviors to ensure social stability.
Imagined Realities become cultural forces/theologies – believing some things are “against nature” (forbidden, sins) or one type of human is superior to another, when in fact nature & biology have nothing to do with it. Racist myths can become so much part of a shared Imagined Reality that they can persist with legislation and embedded social customs, which create and support on-going cycles of oppression.
There are other fascinating rhetorical questions about Imagined Realities. The patriarchal system is not based on biological factors, so why has this Imagined Reality been so universal and stable? Why in a species that depends on cooperation for survival is the biologically less cooperative gender dominating in myths and cultures (masculine traits valued more than feminine traits)? And even, how can Imagined Realities, invented stories that have turned into established truths, be changed?
To change a shared Imagined Reality requires an ideological movement, a religious cult (new sect), or a significant political event, and then the establishment of a NEW shared imagined order. There have been some shifts in Imagined Realities. One in particular is the Puritan beliefs (luxuries are not needed, don’t waste things, hard work focus, reuse and repair) shifting to the beliefs of Consumerism (treat oneself, indulgence is good, reckless consumption, more is better, toss and buy). In the late 20th Century, shopping became a hobby, a normal activity to pass the time; holidays became shopping festivals; and many products are now designed with a short term usage period planned (buy the next upgraded version or next season’s color).A definite shift in beliefs and behaviors associated with them.
The concept of Imagined Reality is fascinating to me and helpful when considering how to identify and shift my personal belief systems. It is all about the stories we tell ourselves, and often those stories are embedded in our cultural or religions beliefs and truths.
And, pulling it back into Retirement Transition, I do think the Imagined Reality of what retirement is about is slowly shifting. There is still often a fear among many of those entering this life stage of boredom, invisibility, isolation, or shame for a lack of productivity. How long I wonder until there is a new broadly shared Imagined Reality about what retirement in the 21st century is really like?
Picture: the finalization of my bottle project – centerpieces for our local Wine Festival
Copyright © 2022 retirementtransition.blog – All rights reserved.