My former colleague Peter Wehner has written a terrific and thought-provoking piece about morality in modern times for Commentary Magazine (On Neuroscience, Free Will, and Morality). It’s a subject that I’ve given some thought to myself over the past few years as I’ve researched, written and lectured about the art and science of communication, public relations (or relationships) and human connections.
In his commentary, Peter writes:
“The ancient Greeks and the Jewish and Christian traditions hold that character is, at least in part, the product of habits, which are the result of a series of choices we make. These choices, taken together and over time, determine whether we are people of integrity. The way we become just and brave is by committing just and brave acts is the way Aristotle put it.”
I’m fascinated by the remarkable evolution of social media and the impact it’s had on our choices, our lives, our communities and our humanity. The more I’ve observed, the more convinced I’ve become that people are profoundly driven by a need for community – not simply for the sake of intellectual engagement or entertainment, but also for the sake of a deeper sense of communing with other human beings.
The rise of telecommuting and entrepreneurialism have driven scores of people out of the commons of the business workplace and into home offices, and it’s not long before many start to feel stranded on their islands of isolation. So what do they do? They pack up their laptops and go to places like Starbucks, where they can work in the company of other warm bodies.
The impact of isolation plays out, I suspect, in the rapidly growing world of social media, where people are flocking to connect and collaborate and build virtual relationships with others who share common business or personal interests.
And where you find two or more people regularly interacting in these virtual settings, you’ll often see that a kinship emerges, and that kinship often develops into a sense of responsibility for one another. And, as the media, marketers and sociologists have already discovered, these virtual connections between individuals scattered around the world have solidified into remarkably strong and loyal communities. And at the core of these communities are individuals who have proven, through incredible social, political and economic movements and global collaborations, that they have hearts, souls – and yes, even morality.
Science and technology have not rendered our humanity obsolete — if anything they have reinforced the idea that we are, at our very core, basically decent, caring, moral and spiritual beings … that we are beautifully and inextricably bound together… and we are driven by forces beyond flesh and bone to connect and commune with one other in whatever ways we can, by whatever means possible.
In his book “Care of the Soul,” Thomas Moore wrote:
“We think of the psyche, if we think about it at all, as a cousin to the brain and therefore something essentially internal. But ancient psychologists taught that our own souls are inseparable from the world’s soul, and that both are found in all the many things that make up nature and culture.”
Both are indelible, I might add, and perhaps even more appreciated and better expressed through the miracles of modern science, technology and medicine.