On who and what we are

Marilynne Robinson ponders the pressures that shape us.



Marilynne Robinson ponders the pressures that shape us.


I think one of the things that’s fascinating about humankind is that we create new evidence toward answering that question in every life, and also in every generation, every culture, you know. I think that we have been recruited recently into this sort of notion of having to drop everything and conform ourselves to the needs of an economy that has not emerged yet, you know, the global economy that threatens us all.

I think that we’re being distracted from the real privilege and the real interest of our existence, which is simply to follow out our own impulses and think our thoughts to the end, to the length that they merit, and so on.. There’s a terrible conformism that’s being suggested for us, because presumably we all have to be prepared in the same kinds of ways to do the same kinds of things – which I think is a completely false model of any economy. Most economies – certainly this one – are based on small businesses, the little transactions that pass among people. But it’s as if we’re all being trained for some sort of huge computer factory or something like that.

I don’t understand the impulse behind that pressure. But I think it’s a pressure that people feel to such an extreme degree that they’re really ignoring things that, historically, human beings have valued, and talking about radical changes in education and so on as if it had no legitimate function except to expedite this strange evolution of culture.