12 Nov 2018
Few things promise us greater happiness than our relationships — yet few things more reliably deliver misery and frustration. Our error is to suppose that we are born knowing how to love and that managing a relationship might therefore be intuitive and easy.
We don’t think that might love be a skill to be learnt, rather than just an emotion to be felt.
Read more on the 5things of this week.
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- how to be more grateful
The idea of pausing to take stock of what has gone well, to be content with things as they are, is in conflict with our times and their emphasis on constant ambition and striving.
But, in truth, there is so much that we should promptly remember to value:
the summer night sky,
the taste of cold milk,
old brick walls, deserted railway stations, the presence of our partners beside us in the stillness of dawn.
When we use ‘modern’ to describe something, it’s usually a positive. We are very appreciative and even a little smug about the miracles of modern science, the benefits of modern technology, and even the superiority of modern viewpoints. But what if, in speeding towards a new and ever-better future, we’ve left some important truths about ourselves behind? One of the people who best helped us explore this problem was Margaret Mead, perhaps the most famous anthropologist of the 20th century.
Margaret Mead was born in 1901, the oldest of five children. Her father was a professor of finance, and her mother was a sociologist who studied Italian immigrants. When Margaret was little, her family moved frequently, and she alternated between attending traditional schools and homeschooling. She also shopped different religions (because her family members had different faiths) and eventually chose Episcopalian Christianity. Her experience sampling different beliefs and navigating new schools may have influenced her decision to study the wildly different ways people think and interact.
After studying psychology as an undergraduate at DePauw University and then Barnard College (at a time where higher education was very unusual for a woman), Mead began a PhD at Columbia University in the relatively new field of anthropology. Her supervisor, Franz Boas, was essentially the founder of the discipline in the United States. Unlike earlier anthropologists, who had imagined that civilisation was progressing in a linear fashion from ‘barbarism’ to ‘savagery’ to ‘civilisation’, Boas argued that the world was teeming with separate cultures, each with their own unique perspectives, insights, and deficiencies. The modern western world was not the pinnacle of human achievement, but simply one specific example of what humans could achieve.