Csikszentmihalyi "The Evolving Self"

In The Evolving Self, Csikszentmihalyi challenges us to go beyond the selfishness of our genes, a fatalistic pre-determined existence, and the constraints of our cultural heritage to create new "selves"? who take seriously the responsibility each of us has for the future of the planet. And although this work is sixteen years old, the concerns he voices are even more urgent today than they were then. Evolution of the human brain resulted in the capacity for a higher level of consciousness. Csikszentmihalyi stated that although all humans have the capacity for a self-reflective consciousness, not everyone uses it equally. Some people blindly allow their genetic blueprint or society dictate their lives, others are extremely self-centered, and the majority are between the two extremes (p. 23). This comment caused me to think back to Barbara’s question last Tuesday about the incredibly self-reflective nature of our blogs last week. So as self-reflective individuals concerned with the global environment, what type of selves do we wish to create? What values do we espouse? What priorities do we set? Can we, as leaders, guide our (humanity’s) evolution to one of cooperation, which as Csikszentmihalyi notes, may give our species the competitive edge for long-term survival of our planet? Can go beyond the limitations of our genetic predispositions, learn from our collective history, and design our evolutionary futures?


Lorna,I completely agree with you that the concerns which Csikszenentmihalyi highlighted in the book that was written sixteen years ago are much more real even today. After reading through the article : The Mind and History a few times, I was able to deduce that the author strongly believes in the need for a global inter-connectedness among nations because anything that happens to one part of the planet affects the rest of the planet. He also believes that the interconnectedness of both human activities and their interests are going to increase "even faster than we are accustomed to in this third millennium"(p.8). A case in point is the recession that is now sweeping across the nation. Indeed the whole world is now engulfed by this phenomenon. It is not only a United State's problem, but a global recession. The computer (internet) and cellular phones are other vivid examples of the world's interconnection between each other. This article shows that it is inevitable that co-operation among the nations of the world should and must exist for the benefit of the universe.This therefore demands that innovative leaders that have the welfare of the environment, interests of the people, and sincere appreciation for the common good must emerge from every part of the world, not to advance individual interests, but to stretch their minds to encompass broader and global interests.

As self-reflective individuals that are concerned with the global environment, we need to create (and as suggested by Csikszentmihalyi) the "self" that falls between those that adhere to the makeup of their genetic blueprints or the dictates of society; and those that develop autonomous selves, that is: those that live entirely by self-generated rules. By choosing the mid-point between these two extremes, I believe that we would be able to achieve an ideal environment that supports self-preservation and self-replication.

Both Lorna and Nduka, like the author, hit on this idea of overcoming our selfish desires/wishes and focusing on serving something bigger than ourselves. The health of the planet is one of those “big’ things.

We all benefit and suffer, there is no hiding from the environment. And I agree that we must take collective steps in order to guide our decisions and benefit the planet as a whole. But I do want to throw a little caution into the discussion. As the author stated near the end on page 24 "Neither excessive humility nor truculent bombast will serve us well in the future. If the selves of our children and their children become too timid, too conservative, and retiring, and try to stop change by retreating into a safe cocoon, eventually they will be overcome by more vital life-forms. On the other hand if we just forge ahead blindly, taking what we can from one another and from the world around us, there is not going to be much left to enjoy on the planet." This helps underline the term from a couple of classes "cautious optimism".

As we have seen with our solutions to global warming and reliance on fossil fuels, there are many ideas and thoughts on how to effectively solve both problems. For instance, the idea that ethanol could help solve our problems, has been shown to not be the solution that many envisioned. The second and third order effects of turning food into gas were seen last summer as gas reached $4 a gallon.

We cannot escape the world we live. There is no space on this planet that isn’t affected by some external factor. But we also cannot rush blindly ahead without thinking about what the results of those actions will be. History is full of the negative consequences of well meaning but misguided programs, decisions, and solutions. We can help guide our evolution, but like the previous millions of years, evolution will take time. Humanity has come a long way, but in a society that has grown accustom to instant gratification the positive changes we need to make might not come quick enough.

I think that it is a very good point that we as humans have the capacity to develop higher conciousness. I think that ability is what truely seperates us from other life forms on this earth. And I beleive that this is a choice. Even though we have the ability, some peope clearly choose to not develop it, some prefer to live in their oblivion, ignoring world issues and living their lives inward because they are so comcerned about themselves and their own image. But I do believe that as the human race is becoming more interconnected through gobalism, human conciousness is making a shift towards higher and more developed forms. I think we are moving in a good direction, even though it sometimes doesn't seem like that. But to me it seems that more people than ever are concerned with injustices and making this world a better place. I agree that now is a vital time in history to be making changes especially in regards to the envirmonment as Tim was saying. Either we will choose to make these changes or our world will be destroyed and therefore humans will be destroyed as well without it.

I have been pondering on the purpose for the readings this week. Although, I was unable to come to class the last couple of weeks due to a shoulder surgery, I have been attempting to keep up with the readings. I am going to respond to each of the readings but use the same first paragraph because the impact of the readings for me comes from the readings in totality not from one in particular.

I agree with the idea that we as human beings to choose develop our "higher consciousness", we also can choose which direction or course that we will follow. I also agree that we must as a more collective species develop collective ways of dealing with challenges, by doing so we can address things that are global in nature and ultimately affect us locally.

Another thing I do find interesting about this article outside of one of the key messages mentioned above, and I have felt about other evolutionary books, articles and readings is the use of faith based language and ideas to help supplant faith in religion to be become faith in evolution. I believe that there is room for a belief in science and evolution and a faith in a higher power, that one need not eliminate the other and that each can serve a purpose for the common good. In both cases, it seems, it comes down to the choices we make.

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs