A Culture of Self

Identity is Culture at the scale of an individual rather than a society.

published on 10.23.23

Our identity is a reflection of our internal culture. What kinds of things do you read, listen to, and watch? What do you value? What do you spend your time focused on? How do you treat the new ideas (or selves) that visit?

The answers to all of these are the culture of you. And like all cultures, you can identify them by their customs. How strange might it feel for someone to visit the land of you? What would the culture shock be like for them? What is your time zone? What would they bring back as a souveneir?

Your habits and beliefs are your customs. It is worth auditing your customs and deciding if they should change.

The richer my internal culture, the higher my self-esteem. I find myself striving to be proud of the culture I invent within myself. I want my culture to be opinionated, open-minded, unique and alive. The intersection of opinionated and open-minded is a kind of sweet spot for culture and self. You wouldn't want to visit a place that was so opinionated that it did not tolerate difference. But you'd also not enjoy a place that was so open-minded that it blurred into an average of everyone else's culture. You want to be somewhere distinct and dynamic, that in its interface with different ideas, sparks new ideas.

I want my culture to have rich artistic exports to the world. I want to have an free-trade policy. I find that the more I share with the world, the richer my sense of self becomes.

I want my house to be a reflection of the culture Tessa and I invent day to day. The objects, art, furniture, books, food, music, language, and happenings in our space should reflect what we love. They should act as a kind of glimspe or glimmer into our inner lives. If someone were suddenly plopped into our living room, I'd want them to be able to guess it was our house without further clues. This is why I am so delighted that Tessa and I have invented so many odd phrases and an idiosyncratic vernacular. We know the language of our culture.

I want this site to be a reflection of my culture too. I want visitors to leave with a real sense of who I am. I think this is why I've been exploring ideas about improving the internet. We spend so much of our time here now that it makes sense for us to want to accurately express ourselves here. But what tools have we been given for digital expression that even come close to the tools we have at our disposal in the physical world? Where are our clothes and fashion? Where are our libraries? Our vinyl collections? What is the language of our internet? We cannot adequately express our culture of self online because there is not enough texture, history, or variety here. The best we've been given is billboards. You can share little grids on Instagram or punchlines on Tik Tok. And we've done the most with what we've been given. There are brilliant people here exploring art and creativity quite well. But there are so many more dimensions to culture than images and videos confined to the same aspect ratios of every other person's images and videos. Your best bet right now is to learn graphic design, programming, and write a lot more.

I think many people struggle with identity and self-esteem at this moment, partly because of the state of our culture and the effect the internet has had on it. What we have right now is connection without distinction. The zeitgeist has gone bland. There is a very rigid set of ideas, beliefs, and tools that we can play with at the moment. That kind of collective restriction is bound to alienate individuals. A confused culture steals from others, manufactures an artificial vibe, and seeks to belittle the customs of others in order to make its own culture seem fuller. I wonder if all the sameness we see in the world right now has seeped into each of us and corroded our courage to have a rich inner life that we can express freely to the outside world. Maybe that is why I feel so adamant about documenting my own internal culture here. And why more and more I find myself searching for those with the courage to do the same.