Creating Wellbeing from Knowledge of History

Mishka’s has one of the best ice coffees in Davis, and that is where I met up with Mike on a Thursday afternoon. Mike is a graduate student, currently working toward a PhD in North American history, with a designated emphasis in Native American studies. We thought out loud about creative wellbeing, and our boisterous conversation touched upon Native American cultures, Descartes, Kohlberg, and Thinking Hearts. These are my insights from my talk with Mike, who has kindly helped me with references for some of the claims I make in this article.

Learning from History

Immediately before my meeting with Mike I took part in a meeting with a cross disciplinary research group at UC Davis. The purpose of this group is to advance research within game based learning. The members of the group primarily work together to produce publications which can be characterized as written knowledge, but are also arranging a game jam for kids and developing game play prototypes.

It is a long standing tradition for scholars to publish articles, and getting an article in one of the most prestigious journals within your field can literally make a whole career. Although this still happens for the very few there is an exponential increase in the number of scientific articles and a new study by Finnish and Californian researchers shows that this in part has lead to an attention decay, see the article here. The increasing amount of publications makes it impossible for researchers to be updated within their field and the study shows that the attention directed towards publications decays at an exponential rate, which indicates that scientist at an increasing speed forgets articles. The study also mentions an attention economy that has arisen in some scientific communities, where scientist reference their colleagues or friends as a favor in order to help them gain either a monetary bonus or status. These issues are problems not only because of the wasted time of bright minds but also because of all the knowledge that is not translated into valuable technology, products, actions, or even into advancing the academic field. What is the point of scientific research if it does not contribute to the wellbeing of society through some kind of output?

In indigenous cultures worldwide and at some time, look to , also within our Western culture knowledge has not been considered a concept separate from art, action, nature, etc. Indigenous people of the Americas considered knowledge as closely connected to aesthetics, art, spirit and their history. In his book Wisdom Sits in Places: Notes on a Western Apache Landscape Keith Basso (read about the author here) explains how indigenous places names have incorporated knowledge, traditions and thoughts of reflection in them - and their literature was paintings of animals and plants each having multiple meanings; a good example is the symbol of the turtle. Most turtle species have 13 sections to shell which in native american culture represents the 13 moons of a year, and is thus related to the mother earth. The knowledge of the World was simply incorporated in the culture’s interpretation of nature. See more by studying the works of Joseph Brunac.

Re-unify Knowledge with Creating Wellbeing

Even though the connection between mind and body is gaining attention in modern psychology and other scientific fields it is far from seen as unified concept. In Western culture knowledge as a separate concept has gained an undeserved reputation of being valuable in itself instead of being a tool for creating wellbeing for people and society. It is maybe time for society to let go of this perception of Descartian separation of mind and body?

With these thoughts my adventurous conversation with an expert in the American history gave me an insight into the very nature of the title of this project. Creative Wellbeing consists of two words representing the outer and inner world of being in the World. Creative is about acting in the external environment while Wellbeing is an internal state - together Creative Wellbeing is about creating your external environment that enables your wellbeing as well as creating an internal state of being that enables you to continuously create and contribute to changing your environments. With this I ask two questions:

How can we and scientist especially make our knowledge relevant for the wellbeing of people?
How do we create wellbeing from knowledge?


Martin Dyrman Hansen