Try and relive the last time you’ve disagreed vehemently with someone; how angry and confused you felt, leaving you thinking, “How on Earth can they seriously think that way?”.
At that time, you witnessed first hand how immensely we are shaped by our connections with the people, objects and environments around us.The saying, “you are what you eat” not only applies to food, but to everything you see, hear, taste and feel. A sensory experience which your mind uses to attach memories and preconceptions to.
An airplane trip to southern China and the first thing you’ll notice stepping out of the airport is the intensely hot, musty air. At the entrance, private cars, buses and taxis fill the street lanes, painted with flaky, distilled colours. Grumpy-looking drivers wave their ashy cigarettes frantically and honk at the passengers throwing their luggage into the boot of the car. The pavement is dirty and soiled with a grey liquid; dilapidated residential blocks spring up too closely like dominos; and a slightly rancid smell of seafood wafts around the food-stall of a lady whose bare fingers definitely should not be touching the food.
But to a boy living in China, these things are his fondest memories of home. The hot air, grey skies and thirty-story apartments are what he grew up with. His father worked as a taxi driver and earned just enough for the boy’s family to survive. To this boy, his father’s grumpy face is the sign of a hardworking, dutiful family man. On the way home from school one day he stops by a dumpling stand to bring home a treat for his little sister, handing over the little money he had left to the lady with the dirty finger-nails. He pulls a box of cigarettes from his pocket and lights one up, the way he’s seen his father and his friends do it. Everyone smoked, and it seemed okay.
Walking past the airport the boy sees a woman dressed in a clean, sharp blouse and high heels staring at him with wide eyes. He walks past her bemusedly, wondering what strange, foreign land she had come from.
Your lifestyle and your decisions are extremely – I would even say completely – dictated by the way you are educated and raised. One set of experiences can hold completely contrasting meanings for different people.
So this begs the question, is any of what you do of your own independent choosing? Your favourite food, your preferred colour, the sports you enjoy, the studies you undertake; are you really making a decision to like these things or have you been adapting to the environments around you? Are you even in control of your choices?
If all that you know and all that you do have been learned habits, do they hold any real significance or meaning? Could our very identities be the products of someone or something else’s influence?