In the west, we think about ourselves as individuals
We think of “individuals” as something real. Let me explain, what I mean.
You probably think of yourself as having a personality. You are introverted, or extroverted, for example.
And because that is “you”, you are always introverted or extroverted, wherever you are, and whomever you are with. What’s more, because you are always the same, we can “measure” you, or your personality, with a test. And of course, psychologists do.
In other cultures, “individual” is not so central to thinking
It is quite hard to grasp, and quite hard to get our heads around the idea that people are not separate from their circumstances.
Where I grew up for example, people are described by their relationships to other people: mother of Jack, daughter of Sam, for example. This not fuzzy thinking. It is very advanced thinking that we find hard.
People are not focusing on the person and the things around the person
They look at the space between the person and the things. Or, the space between one person and another.
Theory, philosophy, cultures, manners, all describe that space.
If you visit New Zealand, you will hear everyone, Maori and Pakeha, talking about Mana
Loosely, mana is a combination of status and respect.
Explained using our concepts, this is confusing. Mana comes partly from our character – who we are as an individual. Mana also comes partly from our position, as a teacher, say.
Using our thinking, this seems untidy and undeveloped.
But mana, like concepts in other cultures, describes the space between people. When we we look at this space, mana makes perfect sense.
3 poetic phrases to explain mana for your new week
As a gift for the week, I thought I would share 3 phrases that I keep on my desk. These quotations are from poets & scholars in the West who write about our need to look at the space between ourselves and others.
“put yourself inside the river”
“everything is waiting for you”
“strength is in contact with the environment”
Have a winning week!
And remember to look after your mana – the space between you and others.
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