What does a person do who is no longer learning to live, no longer learning to be ‘people’, no longer living other people’s lives? Such a person ‘reflects’…she reflects on what she’s learned, on how she’s lived, and on who she’s been.
Does she have something to say that hasn’t already been said by countless others? Does she have something to do that hasn’t already been done? After 75 years, you’ve earned the right to make your own unique contribution to civilization. Now if I could just figure out what that unique contribution might be…
So for 25 years you do nothing to anyone or for anyone; everyone does everything to you and for you. Other people feed you, clothe you, shelter you, teach you, play with you, hurt you, etc.
Then, for the next 50 years, you do everything to and for others: you feed them, clothe them, shelter them, teach them, play with them, yes, hurt them.
For 25 years, give or take, you learn to live. My mother called it ‘learning to be people’. “David,” she would say, “You’re just not people!”
And she was right; I wasn’t.
Then, after 25 years of learning to live, of learning to be ‘people’, you finally are ‘people’. Now at last, you can begin to live…other people’s lives. You’ve learned to be ‘people’, but the people you have learned to be are ‘other
people’. So congratulations, you just spent 25 years of your life learning how to be someone you’re not…and be really good at it!
That’s what we call ‘culture’: learning to be ‘people’, other people, and learning to live other people’s lives. If the purpose of acculturation is to limit behavioral variety across a species, I’d say ours is working very nicely, thank you.