Context, Environment, and Heredity

More on limits and limitations and what makes us who or what we are.

Context I’ve discussed already in a previous entry. We are always in a context at any given moment in our life. It is in those contexts that we may make our many choices and decisions in the large process which is and forms our lives. Context is basically situation and setting–the background and base which makes up our life. For instance, we wake up in a certain bed, in a certain house, either alone or with others each morning. We live in Edmonton or Timbuktu, in the jungle or on a desert. We have jobs we like or may be looking for work, or retired. On and on. Context is large when you start to examine it. It affects us every inch of the way through life. And it often limits our choices and what is possible for us by way of change.

I have not really spoken of environment, but psychologists point out that it is one of the main factors in influencing the course of an individual’s life. Usually the meaning of the term is restricted to where one grows up though it also refers to situations and circumstances that influence a very young person. A determining factor for sure. As with other things I’ve written about already, environment, too, has much to do with limits, limitations and the amount of freedom a person enjoys. I immediately think of how ‘restrictive’ and structured the 1950s and early ’60s were for many youth growing up and the large burst of freedom they began to experience in the mid and late ’60s,

The second main factor mentioned by psychologists and scientists, in general, is heredity and there is also no question that this largely makes us what we have looked like over the years and the kind of health problems we may have run into. Other people respond to how we look and our sensory responses to others and our surroundings. Again, the influence of genes. And if our parent had cancer, there is a susceptibility implication for us built in, so to speak.

Scientists say the individual personality, temperament, and character are fixed or set at an early age. Three years is one age that was once mentioned; other scientists say younger or older (5? 6?). No doubt this figure may be accurate or true given the amount of heredity and environment at work in about 1000 key days.

I have no problem concluding that what a person is, innerly and externally, has been created and limited by that age. And that that is the ‘core’ person who moves forward through the rest of experiences and processes occurring in mostly changing contexts after that. So, in a sense, the limits and limitations of a person are deep and many, and go back a long way. Whatever freedom we go on to experience is relative to that as well as to the amount of freedom we once may have experienced from the beginnings of our life, before formal education, and adulthood. Call this a kind of freedom context.

The question we are left with when we are ready to ask it some day is what freedoms do we need, want, and require? Which ones will enhance us and ‘de-limit’ us? How might they make our lives better? But always, the starting point is what freedoms do we not have which are within the realm of possibility, desire, and imagination?

Context, environment, and heredity we all have a ton of. It is freedom, inevitably, that we may be rather short of.

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