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Home » Blog » Podcast Blog: Peter Merry

Being a Human: Designing Synapses that shape Experiences

We have all had a variety of experiences that have shaped who we are. What becomes apparent over time is that what matters is not the experience itself, but the meaning we attribute to it. What is the narrative we create around that experience?

What life-altering experiences have you had? What significance did you derive from those encounters? What additional interpretations are possible?

Our experiences determine who we are through the meaning we assign to them.

The experiences of life are gifts because they are the ingredients of character, depth, and compassion.

Examine the various roles you’ve assigned to yourself in the creation of your life. Peter Merry discusses the impact of experiences on your purposeful living and how they determine your life.

Gaurav: How has your childhood crafted the person that you become today? How has that contributed to your life? And the kind of work that you are involved in today?

Peter: I was sent away to boarding school when I was eight, and stayed there till 18. And that, you know, that does a number of things to you.

One, you don’t understand why your parents abandoned you, as a child. So you learn to protect yourself and survive. Essentially, one of the things you do in that process is that you bottle up the emotions, because showing vulnerability, and the emotional side, you know, puts you open to, to bullying or any other things from kids. So you learn to basically develop a hard outer shell.

And yeah, I mean that over the years, it’s interesting, because when you’re missing something like say, your, you know, access to the emotional side, or the more sensitive side, that’s the thing that you end up going on a quest for. And it’s the thing that maybe touches you most when you experience it in the world. And one of the things that, you know, as a child, you still really touched me was if I ever saw or read about the suffering of animals, for example, that used to really touch me, and I didn’t really know why for any particular reason. 

But I guess early on, I developed a pretty strong sense of, you know, justice, in terms of wanting to make sure people and all beings I guess were treated with respect. And that humans were able to be compassionate with each other and the world around them. And when I saw that not happening, that used to make me really angry. So I got into, you know, into kind of environmental activism.

Gaurav: What was the thought process that you were going through? And what would these new thoughts or new assumptions that you were building for yourself, that led you to do what you’re doing today?

Peter: I guess part, it was a thought process, but it was probably driven also by more of an emotional process. That was, I guess, you know, often as kind of teens and early 20s, we’re in a student kind of world, we’re in a bit of a rebellious mindset, that we’re questioning the status quo, believing that we have the answers for how it all should be.

So I guess I was going through that kind of process, but somewhere, I guess that feeling of deep value, I guess, around the respect for life, and how people should be treating each other animals, the rest of life with respect, was probably driving it underneath. And then as I saw it revealed, how the current economic systems, the current social systems, seem not to be built on that assumption, but really built on a model that was about generating as much profit as possible financial profit as possible for people. I guess that was what fed my rebellious fire as it were, and there was something I could fight against, and something I could fight for. Somehow that gave meaning to my life in those early days. Even though later on, I began to see the polarization as being too extreme. In those days, it gave me I guess, a sense of purpose. Now, you know, in fact, the whole episode, the whole conversations that we get into with our guests, is primarily to help us understand how people come to a conclusion that this is my purpose, right, or this is the cause that I really care for. 

Here are a bit of thoughts on How We Can Make Experiencing Life A Purpose. 

Let’s Make Experiencing Life A Purpose

Your life’s goal is to experience the entirety of who you truly are.

Many people believe that their life’s mission is to discover happiness. This may be true if you live in a perfect society, but to feel happiness is only a component of the purpose of life.

If happiness is our fundamental goal, how come so many people are unsatisfied at a time when options are greater than ever?

Individuals are living longer as a result of improved access to health care and a cleaner diet. We are more linked to one another than ever before thanks to social media, yet others claim that this is a source of sadness.

Nonetheless, our lives have improved, but sadness and disappointment persist because, while living conditions have improved, people’s fundamental needs remain unsatisfied.

Without a doubt, we understand why individuals are unhappy; they are dealing with financial and family issues, as well as interpersonal, job, societal, and environmental issues. However, if you equate happiness with constantly having your exterior demands met, contentment will evade you.

Therefore, if happiness is not the primary objective of life, what is?

One could argue that the aim of life is to discover the full scope of one’s being. This means that life will not always go as planned and that you will encounter sadness, pain, and disappointment.

Though it is important noting that this is not the end of the path, nor does it provide insight into how the remainder of your life will unfold. It’s a minor hiccup in your overall trip, but anything could change the course of your destiny irreversibly just around the corner.

Life is challenging, and nobody truly understands their basic motivations. That is said in the most eloquent manner imaginable. You’re constructing your life as you go, hoping for the best and trusting that the next chapter will emerge according to your decisions.

The more informed and conscious you are, the more successful your life will be.

To fully experience who you truly are, embrace each encounter and learn the lessons hidden inside them. While you are learning, you can gain knowledge from them. When you reflect on your life, you will realise that each encounter shaped you into the person you are now.

A Weekly Assignment: What experiences have you had that affected your life? What meaning did you glean from those experiences? What other meanings can you create?

About the Speaker: Peter Merry

“A creative thinker-doer committed to making the biggest possible positive impact with the least possible effort. Peter is co-founding Chief Innovation Officer at Ubiquity, founder of the Center for Human Emergence (Netherlands), and a founding partner of Engage!. He has worked in and across different sectors. As well as co-founding and leading the organisations above, his experience includes facilitating integral change processes in multinational corporations, and government ministries, and in multistakeholder initiatives with global stakeholders. 

He has also spent many years in the not-for-profit sector. He is a recognised expert in the field of evolutionary systems dynamics and Spiral Dynamics Integral in particular. His first book was published in English and Dutch (Evolutionary Leadership, 2005) and his second in 2019 (Why Work? on designing work for people and planet – www.whyworkbook.com). His third book Leading from the Field (https://leadingfromthefield.com) is due out at the end of November 2020. . He has an MSc in Human Ecology from Edinburgh University and a PhD from Ubiquity’s Wisdom School on volution theory (see www.volutiontheory.net). His personal website is www.petermerry.org.”

This is an edited script of the full conversation. Catch up with the speaker and listen to the full conversation on The xMonks Drive Podcast.