Introducing “The Shifting Experience of Self”
Henry David Thoreau had it half wrong in Walden when he said things don’t change; we change. The fact is people do change, but so do all kinds of things, like technologies, governments, economies, and every other institution in society. And these changes in the world bring about changes in us, and vice versa. The relationship between us and the social and material world is complex and intertwined, much more so than Thoreau, from his bucolic pond, imagined.
Further, the rate of change, the kinds of change, and the scope of change taking place today are impossible to understand without also looking at the ways they are affecting societies and how we understand and experience ourselves and others. While trends and fads mark the surface changes we see happening around us every day, there are deeper changes that take place over time, sometimes not as near to the surface and often more difficult to discern. For humans to flourish in the midst of these changes, we need to understand them at as deep a level as we can. Only then can we think about how to respond, by cultivating them or resisting them, by heralding them or criticizing them.