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What Makes Us Tick?

Why do we do what we do? What drives us in our search for meaning and purpose in life? The diversity of books in my personal library would suggest that as Australians we share the same basic needs and aspirations as the rest of the western culture, but I am not sure that is the case. The average Aussie is in some sense unique – because of our nation’s interesting and rich mix of racial and cultural backgrounds, and on that basis Hugh Mackay has written this book to tease out some of that “uniqueness”. As Australia’s leading social researcher who has been at the game for 30 or more years, he brings an educated, well researched base for his conclusions. These are his top 10 desires that make us tick as Australians:

  1. The desire to be taken seriously.
  2. The desire to belong.
  3. The desire for my place.
  4. The desire for something to believe in.
  5. The desire to connect.
  6. The desire to be useful.
  7. The desire for more.
  8. The desire for control.
  9. The desire for soemthing to happen.
  10. The desire for love.

Mackay does not rank these desires, but recognises that individuals and subgroups within our society will show differing foci, his extensive surveys and interviews consistently showed these 10 as the front runners.

My personal work as a Minister of Religion and now as a Chaplain in the Defence Force would confirm those results as well. The only one which initially caught me by surprise was the “desire for something to happen”. However, maybe that is just due to the type of people I have most contact with. The military mindset put’s the emphasis on, not just hoping that something might happen, but taking responsibility for making things happen!

The aspect that encouraged me the most was the “desire for something to believe in”. In this post-christian era my own experience is that the average young Australian has no faith in traditional religious structures (the Church) but at the same time has a healthy desire for some sort of spiritual awareness.

This is particularly critical in a war zone when confronted by the coffin of a colleague – the secular humanists do not offer much hope. My role is to provide the basis of the Christian meta narrative, side-stepping formal religion and focussing on building a personal relationship with God. At such times, they don’t just desire something to believe in, they need it!

Much of this book, What Makes Us Tick, was predictable (for me as an Aussie), yet in his usual style with the graphic stories, it was very readable. If you don’t know any Aussies and you want to understand us better, this is an excellent book to read!

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