Wednesday, June 29, 2016
The Purpose of Culture
The purpose of culture has always been instrumental in directing the course of world affairs. Despite its importance, this purpose – along with other factors that influence lives daily – seems seldom addressed in the United States. I suspect that this is due in part to the cultural ambiguity that defines life in the USA. All surface talk aside, what defines the American culture in general (assuming it has one)?
“Culture” is related to the words “cultivation” and “cult” - the latter as a deranged incarnation of the primary concept. [I use deranged here in its most direct, literal meaning, which is “removed range” or “limited/lessened range”.] To cultivate is to tend, to grow, and to nurture. As it relates to us, our culture(s) – whatever form it/they may take – ought to serve us by providing our conduct with a conceptual and spiritual framework with which to interact with the world, while also supplying morals, values, and principles, that will allow those practicing it to continue thriving into subsequent generations.
Each culture is unique, and relates to the rest of the world in a distinct, self-defined manner. In a sense, most lifeforms have their own culture. There are spider cultures, dolphin cultures, and elephant cultures, just as there are human cultures. What does all this have to do with the US? Well... if a culture could ever be objectively deemed “bad” or evil, in my mind, it would have to be one that, at its core, threatens the world as a whole, when - and where - it thrives.
Potentially, many if not most cultures could threaten the balance of life on this planet, if allowed to grow unchecked. If conditions were different, for example, the bee population might have grown to such an extent that they soon occupied every region on Earth. (Speaking of which, is it just me or do you hardly ever see bees these days?) Fortunately, the natural world has systems in place for every form of life to keep them in line, from predators to preys.
This is what's troubling about the Western way of life: rather than acting as stewards, caretakers, or even lords of the land, mankind's excesses have played the role of dominating tyrant, and it places everyone – from child to tree – in a very precarious position. Is it too late to trade this culture in for another one; an older one perhaps?