Imparting Cultural DNA

I just spent my day at a career fair in NYC. Why is it that I am 22 years old and still feel like a child? A quarter of my life is passed and I am still not a self-supporting adult?

I’ve heard someone somewhere say that adolescence ends at 25. How can that be when we are physically mature at 18? Because when our species transformed from monkeys into people, we began building a world that requires more than physical maturity to navigate.

All other forms of life communicate to their progeny how to behave through DNA. The double helix encodes all the molecular information necessary for how that organism should “be”. It tells a dandelion how to flower, an elephant to grow a trunk, and a birds to instinctively migrate.

Homo Sapiens are much more complex than any of these creatures, of course. We use tools. We build cities. We trade stocks, options, and bonds representing equity in invisible corporate entities. We speak. We fall in love. It takes more than the genetic, molecular encoded information in DNA to teach a young human how to understand these phenomena.

We use a mechanism of our good ol’ intelligence to pass this information to our children: culture. I define culture as the “stuff” our parents give us when they show us how to live. There are so many kinds of ways to live, and that’s how we see such a vast difference in cultural practices and values.

How could this possibly be relevant to my career fair? Because the prep-school, the college education, and your internships are all slowly bringing you into the culture of the working world. There are basic best practices in this world that are necessary to being a productive, pro-active member. I have another two years of intellectual, cultural, and “productivity” adolescence to look forward to because that fraction of the 7 billion people on Earth I have come in contact with hasn’t finished socializing me. We’ve all got nature, but nurture takes time.

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