The irresistible urge to build

Anyone who’s attended a sociology class is probably familiar with the nature/nurture debate. That is, the opposing points of view about why people are the way they are. The “nature” side argues that biology is destiny, and that everything about human behaviour can be explained by genetic makeup. The “nurture” side, on the other side, makes the case that social circumstances, and childhood in particular, determine behaviour.

If you want to figure out where your love of building dioramas came from, the nature/nurture framework is a good place to start. Consider the “nature” side. Do your parents or grandparents share your interest? Even if there’s no-one in your family tree who built dioramas, there might be an architect, sculptor, engineer or painter. In that case, it’s likely that you were a recipient of a certain gene set that predisposed you to becoming a diorama artist.

Now look at the “nurture” side. Do you remember being exposed to childhood events that could have inspired your interest in dioramas? Maybe you went to the museum on a school field trip and were enchanted with big dioramas of medieval battles. Or you had a friend with an amazing collection of model cars. Or a teacher with a train set that took up his whole basement (as I had).

Depending on whether you speak to a sociologist or biologist, you’re likely to get vastly different answers about the origin of your interest in dioramas. The funny thing about academia is that by funneling students into specialized study streams, the educational system encourages tunnel vision. And the longer you stay in school, the worse it gets. I still remember my university sociology professor fervently denying that instinct was what caused birds to fly south in the winter. If I were to run into him today, I’d have some fun with this. I’d ask him if flying south was reserved for bourgeois birds. I’d suggest he start a crowd funding campaign to help the poor oppressed working class birds who couldn’t afford to summer in the tropics. Workers unite!

Lest we become victims of tunnel vision like my well intentioned but deluded professor, it probably makes sense to take the middle ground and acknowledge that most of the time, both nature and nurture come into play. For myself, I can say that it was definitely a combination of the two that got me into dioramas. How about you?