Friday, June 13, 2008

The Power of Context and the Courage to Create, Revisited

We’re defining context here to mean “a fundamental set of assumptions”—assumptions that are not recognized as assumptions, and that go unquestioned—in which the world happens. When people thought the earth was flat (an analogy that grows old but never dies), that was a context or worldview that limited perception and behavior—how those folks saw the horizon, how far toward the edge they sailed, and so on. Similarly, our way of being a man or a woman, and the possibilities available to us, are given by the assumptions embedded in our culture, our language, and times in which we live. A girl born in the U.S. today would likely inherit a very different possibility for being a woman than a girl born in the 1930s or ’40s—would she be a dot-com mogul or running for president?

So if you consider the premise that the whole world happens inside of the assumptions we hold true (and if you do the math), what becomes apparent is that contexts are a mighty and decisive force. Contexts come to us by default, and we live our lives essentially unaware of their existence and of their far-reaching influence. It’s like wearing blinders—we don’t see the contexts themselves, we see only what they allow. These default contexts determine our worldview: what’s possible and not, what’s true and false, what’s right and wrong, what we think we can and can’t do. They travel with us—wherever we are, they are—shaping our behavior, our choices, our lives.

The Context Is Decisive

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