Escaping Puritan Roots

I remember a book I read for a college elective that discussed how the various waves of English migration to the United States helped shape the culture and norms of regions in America. Basically, when the wealthy landowners had stability in England, the working-class protestants came to America and settled in the north. And when the working-classes gained power in England, the wealthy Catholic landowners came and settled in the south.

The topic was fascinating but not particularly useful in my chosen major. However, I did gain a takeaway that continues to provide me with context on my own heritage. For example, most of my ancestors fall into the “working-class puritans” who settled in the northern states during the 1800’s. They were predominately Welsh/Irish on the paternal side and English/German on the maternal.

There are two stereotypical attributes of these ancestors that I internally rebel against today. First, the idea that hard work is one of the noblest pursuits. I don’t believe this to be true.

Hard work is certainly worthy of respect. However, I think that with some ingenuity, focus, and yes, appropriate hard work, one can set themselves up with sufficient income to not have to grind out 60+ hour weeks to make a living. Especially in the information age!

In addition, hard work alone is not enough. It needs to be focused work on the items that are most effective in accomplishing your goals, and the work must be completed as efficiently as possible. Accomplishing your goals in the minimum amount of time should be the goal. If you complete everything in under a 20-hour week, more power to you!

Again, practically I know this to be true. I have seen it proven in case studies and by testing in my own life. Yet I still struggle with stopping when I reach a defined goal: my natural inclination is to keep doing something, and I must consciously question the value of what I am doing to get myself to stop.

The second stereotypical attribute is the view of sex: namely that it is something for a husband and wife, never to be discussed, and certainly don’t mention enjoying it (else you might be mistaken for a witch). My own beliefs are not that, but there is enough of that structure engrained in me that I am not going to elaborate further here.

And that is what I mean about escaping puritanism. I know that there are healthier ways of viewing and approaching life, but it takes reflection and vigilance to escape the unconscious biases I have on these facets of life and exercise anything close to free will.

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