In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari writes, “Ever more scholars see cultures as a kind of mental infection or parasite, with humans as its unwitting host.”
This made me stop and wonder. We understand that physical viruses move through their hosts, making them sick and maybe worse, before moving on to the next person. Is that what is happening to our thoughts as well? Are we catching a story and then trying to make it true for us?
We are inundated with ideologies from the moment we are born. We get messages about what is right and wrong, what is acceptable, what success looks like, and the paths we need to take to get there. We are affected by that mental infection that can cause us to feel like a bear is always chasing us. We must do things a certain way. And we cannot be happy until we do.
Yet, German philosopher Nietzsche wrote, “No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life.” And poet e.e. cummings said, “To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.”
So, what should we do? There are many wonderful things we can glean from society, but we also must take time to hear our own voice. What is it telling us? What are we telling our children? Will we be a host to someone else’s story or to our own?