The power of context: Introduction
I’m starting to think again about how environments influence and eventually shape us. There are lots of examples of this in the wider natural world where certain species of fish will only grow to a certain size if they are in one body of water but if placed in a larger body of water they will grow much larger. I’m sure there are many other examples but my knowledge of biology is quite limited…
I also wonder about retail spaces like malls (those hellish places!). Malls seem perfectly designed to get people to spend money. The way they are laid out, the music chosen to play in the background, the layout of the stores, the visual stimulation supported by the other senses of smells and sounds washing over the consumer. Sugary scents of Cinnabon coupled with shafts of light streaming in from transparent skylights.
On the opposite end of the spectrum I remember the first time I stepped foot in a monastery, The Abbey of Gethsemani in the rolling hills of Kentucky.
The stone hallways.
The stark white walls.
The simple furnishings.
All of these things worked together to transport me to what seemed like another world. The very environment evoked prayer and communion.
How do we shape environments that will ultimately shape us? How do we design our home environment in a way that naturally leads those who enter to feel welcomed, nourished, inspired and connected to God?
In short I’m interested in what Malcolm Gladwell calls the “Power of Context.”
I’m especially interested to explore three angles: the physical environment, the role of the leader/ abbot/ parent, and the rituals that are present there.
Are you game to explore this with me? I’d love to share what I learn but also hear what you already know about this.
How’s this for starters: What were some of the most formative aspects of your home when you were growing up?