# Our Culture

A culture is “the way a community or organization does things”. It is the combined set of behaviours and beliefs, norms and values, artifacts and institutions that organize how a community does things.[1]

Culture is especially important to Life Itself, in a sense it is Life Itself – not only how we operate internally, but the very thing we are creating and sharing as an organization.

Culture is often implicit rather than explicit. It cannot be perfectly documented. Thus, this document should be taken as illustrative rather than definitive. It is our attempt to document our culture, to make it more explicit and therefore to make it easier to navigate, participate in and contribute to, especially for newcomers.

# Ontology

All culture is rooted in an (implicit) ontology: a set of beliefs about “being”, that is, how human beings are and how they operate.

We believe that we human beings are fundamentally:

  • Complete: “perfect, whole and complete”… with barriers to the expression of that such as fear, ignorance, delusion and craving.
  • Great: we see people as possibilities and as able to achieve more than they (or we) can imagine
  • Curious: we want to test, discover, explore, take apart and be awed and wondrous
  • Creative: we want to build, develop, scaffold and innovate
  • More than mind: we are more than our thoughts or feelings. Just like we have a body, we have our thoughts and feeling but we aren’t just them.

In short, we believe we all have “buddha-nature”[2] and it is there to be unlocked (not made!).[3]

We also believe that much that gets in the way of realising that nature: fear, ignorance, delusion, craving, anger etc. In particular we believe we humans have a tendency to:

  • Looking good / avoiding looking bad: we often are concerned with how we appear to others – rather than actual outcomes in reality.
  • Judging: to make ourselves, others and situations “wrong” (or “right”), assessing them as good and bad (and making these assessments on very little evidence).
  • Story-making: we make up narrative and stories about people and situations and these stories are distinct from “what (actually) happened”. These stories are very powerful and rapidly start to frame and color what we see like a pair of tinted glasses.
  • Being inconsistent / Lacking self-control: we aren’t consistent in our decision making, we have impulse control / self control issues that mean we struggle to maintain committed to choices especially the choices most beneficial to us. For example, you may have decided you want to get fit and deeply want that but when the alarm goes off at 6:30am for your early morning run you hit the snooze button. Or you know you want to go bed early so you are fresh tomorrow but when the next episode option comes up on netflix you hit yes. You can even imagine there are “multiple yous”:[4] I want to be healthy but then I eat the donuts.

# Ontogeny

Linked to an ontology is an ontogeny: a belief about how we got to be the way we are and how that can change (or “transform”).

Ontogeny is not about how we acquire knowledge or learn new skills. It is focused on how we come to “be” and our “ways of being” – i.e. personality, attitudes, will and consciousness.


This section is incomplete.

  1. Another definition: a community of practice plus a network of values. An intentional culture would include a shared purpose and would thus the definition would become: a shared purpose + community of practice + network of values. ↩︎

  2. Or, if you prefer, christ-nature, etc. ↩︎

  3. From Philip Kapleau’s Three Pillars of Zen:

    Ma-tsu was doing zazen daily in his hut on Nan-yueh Mountain. Watching him one day, Huai-jang, his master, thought, “He will become a great monk,” and inquired:
    “Worthy one, what are you trying to attain by sitting?”
    Ma-tsu replied: “I am trying to become a Buddha.”
    Thereupon Huai-jang picked up a piece of roof tile and began grinding it on a rock in front of him.
    “What are you doing, Master?” asked Ma-tsu.
    “I am polishing it to make a mirror,” said Huai-jang.
    “How could polishing a tile make a mirror?”
    “How could sitting in zazen make a Buddha?” ↩︎

  4. The idea of multiple yous actually has growing evidence in neuroscience. See, for example McGilchrist’s the Master and his Emissary which provides a lot of evidence that your right and left hemisphere see the world differently and would operate differently. Similarly, Kahnemann and Tversky’s work can be framed in terms of 2 parallel decision making processes: a fast and a slow one. One way to explain self-control or inconsistent decision-making is to imagine at least two “yous” in decision making and maybe more e.g. matrix of four between self control + impulsive and fast / slow (i.e. heuristic and reasoned). ↩︎