The theory of Bentoism and multi-dimensional self-interest
How short-term individualism limits us
Learning our new map
The fundamentals of Bentoism A common symbol of our view of self-interest today is the “hockey stick” graph. A chart where whatever we want (money, influence, prestige) is growing so fast the line goes up and to the right. This, we think, is life’s best-case scenario.
But this idea of success is just a sliver of what’s out there. When we take a step back, the bigger picture starts to emerge.
Our self-interest doesn’t stop with me right now. It extends in both directions.
The X-axis of time extends from now into the future. The Y-axis of our self-interest goes from me to us. As our self-interest grows, so do our responsibilities.
This wider view of our self-interest includes what we want right now. But other rational perspectives are here too. Our future selves. The people we care about. The future of our children and everybody else’s children too.
Each of these spaces impacts us and is impacted by us. They are all in our true self-interest.
This is a Bentoist way of seeing self-interest. Bento as in the bento box, the Japanese packed meal. The word “bento” derives from a Japanese word meaning convenience. Here, it's an acronym for BEyond Near Term Orientation.
A bento always has a variety of dishes. Never too much of one thing. A bento box is a convenient, healthy, and balanced meal. It honors the Japanese eating philosophy of hara hachi bu, which says the goal of a meal is to be 80% full. That way you’re still hungry for tomorrow.
Bentoism is a bento box for our values and decisions. A convenient way to make healthy and balanced choices, and to see our true self-interest.
The four spaces The Bento reveals the full spectrum of our self-interest. Distinct spaces that impact us and are impacted by us.
Now Me is the most self-interested voice. It’s where hockey stick graphs live. It’s concerned with what it wants right now.
Now Me is our protector. It wants to be safe and secure. It’s the part of us that wants pleasure and autonomy, too.
Future Me is the wrinkled version of yourself that made all the right decisions. The voice that reminds you of your commitments. The obituary you wish you could have.
Future Me is driven by purpose, grit, and the pursuit of mastery — values earned over time.
Now Us are the people we rely on and who rely on us. Our families, neighbors, coworkers, people with whom we share nationality, ethnicity, gender, religion, sports fandom, and however else we identify.
Key values that shape our Now Us relationships include fairness, community, and tradition.
Future Us is the next generation. Our children and everyone else’s children too.
Future Us is concerned with long-term implications. It highly values awareness, knowledge, and sustainability.
The Bento represents our true self-interest. The areas we should be considering when making decisions and value judgements.
The governing values show us potential ways of acting if we want to create value in those spaces.
Why Bentoism? Despite the technological and social advances of the 21st century, we still find ourselves trapped by a limited perspective. Decades of short-term individualism have caused our shared values, social trust, and future prospects to decline. The Bento is a map to the values and dimensions of a new, emerging world.
Today we're afflicted with Passive Awareness. We're hyper-aware of our immediate desires and insecurities, yet we struggle to see anything of value beyond what’s good for Now Me.
Passive Awareness tricks us into thinking harmful decisions are good for us. From the perspective of Now Me, addiction and short-termism seem rational. Sacrifice — giving up something now or on behalf of others — seems unthinkable. All that matters is what's good for Now Me.
We escape this limited perspective by learning to see the bigger picture with an Active Awareness.
Active Awareness expands the perimeter of our self-interest. It connects Me to Us. It connects Now to the Future. It aligns our actions with all dimensions of our self-interest.
Moving from a Passive to an Active Awareness creates better outcomes without infringing on individual beliefs. An Active Awareness doesn't impose any values or beliefs beyond an increased awareness of ourselves and one another.