Ramblings in my mind....


first the definition from Merriam-Webster (and because this is English, there are many):

  1. 2:  the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education
  2. 3:  expert care and training <beauty culture>
  3. 4a :  enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic trainingb :  acquaintance with and taste in fine arts, humanities, and broad aspects of science as distinguished from vocational and technical skills
  4. 5a :  the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generationsb :  the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; also :  the characteristic features of everyday existence (as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time <popular culture> <southern culture>c :  the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization <a corporate culture focused on the bottom line>d :  the set of values, conventions, or social practices associated with a particular field, activity, or societal characteristic <studying the effect of computers on print culture><changing the culture of materialism will take time — Peggy O'Mara>
  5. 6:  the act or process of cultivating living material (as bacteria or viruses) in prepared nutrient mediaalso :  a product of such cultivation

    Specifically, my thoughts are on the culture as presented in 5b.

    Recently, I have had the opportunity to a book discussion group. The last book we discussed was "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand", set in modern day England. The main character, Major Pettigrew, is an older man (68 y/o), a widower ready to wade back into the dating pool. Lovely story.

    But some of the other readers didn't appreciate the properness of his attitudes, didn't have an understanding of proper social standing in the village community he lives in, and certainly didn't have an understanding of the Islam culture of the Pakistani family also featured in the book. And this frustrated me.

    And the book we discussed in January was set in the early- to mid- 1800s in a rural Chinese village. The main character grew up in the story, starting at age 5, the time when a girl's feet were bound with the intent of breaking the bones, by her own mother. So again the culture of another country in another time was a main feature of the story. The discussion of this particular culture was more open, more tolerant. And I wonder if that is because it was so far removed, geographically and timewise, from our own.

    Coming home after each of these discussions, I was inspired to do some reflection of my own, of the culture I live in (midwest US, late 20th/early 21st century), what I like about it and what I don't like about it. And in this I do have the advantage of having lived for a year outside my own culture. I lived for a year in a small country town in Australia. "Oh but Australia, they are of european descent and speak English; their culture isn't so different from US culture." And let me just say, it is. Maybe not as different as the culture in Pakistan is or India; but it is.

    And thinking I did, which took me back to thoughts I had about culture back while I was still a student in high school, let's say 16 y/o - 18 y/o. I did experience a different high school culture when I moved to live with my dad in Texas for 2 years, which was also a different family culture than living with my mom. And I studied the german language and as much of german culture as my teacher was able to share with the class in those two years.

    So you see, culture is all around us, it's the family we live with, the community we live in, the state (region), and the country; as well as the religion, and the immediate social group.

  6. And my conclusion then, is that we're all human. We're all born with the same basic needs which every mother does her best to meet. Because it is a mother's instinct to love and care for her child. But it is the culture(s) we grow up in which shapes our beliefs, and attitudes; our tolerances and hates.
I propose that the next time you hear yourself putting forth intolerance and hate, stop. Hear yourself, and ask  yourself why? Why do I have this belief? Who is this serving? Who taught me to hold this belief? And, can I be better?

I see no reason for borders, for country loyalty (nationalism). I see no reason for war.  or starvation.  or homelessness.  I was talking with my husband about this last night, and he said my ideas are very John Lennon. So let me leave you with his thoughts --

    Imagine there's no heaven
    It's easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people
    Living for today...
    Imagine there's no countries
    It isn't hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace...
    You may say I'm a dreamer
    But I'm not the only one
    I hope someday you'll join us
    And the world will be as one
    Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man
    Imagine all the people
    Sharing all the world...
    You may say I'm a dreamer
    But I'm not the only one
    I hope someday you'll join us
    And the world will live as one


  1. Love this! I used to tell my students that culture is just a set of stories that enough people believe in and agree to live by. When the stories change, the culture changes. Totally agree that even thouygh on the surface a place like Australia might look similar, once you are there you see it isn't. I cannot tell you how many people said Ireland would be no different than the US. It is very different. I had a lot of students tell me that they never realized they had "a culture." They thought that was for those Others. The problem with that is that it is hard to see how your own culture operates.

  2. Yes, I say that all the time... it's so hard to know your own assumptions, your own culture when that's all you know. You have to step outside so you can look back in.

    Last autumn, our local middle school got nation-wide news coverage following an announcement for a 2-week study of Islam, which was a misnomer to begin with. It was actually a study of the middle east during the dark ages and following, when all sorts of scientific and artistic things were happening in that part of the world. And the very conservative, christian was up-in-arms over it. But the most telling comments were the ones asking when the schools were going to do a unit study on christianity/US culture. Hello?! You live in a christianity/US culture. Why would you study it in school?! I just wanted to shake these people.


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