Culture. It can mean a lot of things. But the context to which I refer, is this. “The customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.”
We all are born from different cultures. I am speaking to our unique ways of life, our lifestyles. Each of us comes from a different area, and families who have varying customs, traditions, heritage, and styles. We even have separate mores, and values.
When I was a kid, we lived in a hodgepodge neighborhood. Every kitchen on the street smelled differently, tasted differently. My favorite, next to my Mom’s Kitchen, was the Lithuanian Kitchen halfway up the block. I always tried to look a little pathetic, and underfed, when I went to that friend’s house.
Culture. Here it the thing of this beautiful thing. One is no better than the other. I think it is important to remember this, all the world around.
The Icelandic Culture is no more important than the German Culture, than the Ecuadorian Culture, than the Tunisian Culture, than the South African Culture. Iranian. American. Chinese. Korean. Norwegian. You get the picture by now.
Think about sitting down to Thanksgiving Dinner with our families. We look forward to the yearly event. In the weeks leading up to this 15-minute meal, we bustle, and we plan, and we figure. Then we clean and we cook and cook and cook. We put in a great deal of effort to celebrate this holiday. A major event in most of our American cultures. But we do this because it has meaning for us.
And in this way, we have to remember, that all around the world, people, like us, revere their own traditions and celebrations. We should honor those practices, in their lives. Just as our traditions are important to us, we should acknowledge that their traditions are important to them.
In fact, our little Thanksgiving Dinners have only been around for about 300 years. Many Cultures of the World have celebrated their traditions, for thousands upon thousands of years.
I’m reading a few books right now. As it goes, two of them are talking about Culture, right at the same dang time. In one, I learned (a bit) about the Cherokee Stomp Dance. They perform this ritual around a sacred fire. What makes it sacred? Well, the fire has been burning since before the Battle at Wounded Knee. After each Stomp Dance, a “guardian” of the fire, takes some of the burning embers, and keeps the flames going, until the group meets again. This goes on each time, over and over. I love this.
In one of the other books I am reading, it is talking about varying times and places in ancient history. It speaks about all the “books” of the Bible which were not included in the Bible that we know today. (Sidebar. I wonder who decided which books were included, and which were rejected for the Bible. Like the Book of Enoch, and the Gospel of Peter.).
Anyway. To continue. The book also tells about Religions, founded early in Ancient History, like Zoroastrianism, the oldest existing revealed religion. Most of us never know, consider, or hear about such things. But they are all around us, swirling, and existing, and thriving, in a world right here on this planet. Different from ours. In some other locations. But fully alive.
I think we should respect these too. Their beliefs and practices may be different than ours. But certainly, they are every bit as important, and valid, and valuable.
What I am getting at is this. We should start smiling at people in the grocery line. Every time. We should quit looking past people, and start showing compassion. We can choose to value people, rather than to devalue people. Because, although we are different, we are all much the same. We can begin by creating a sense of belonging. Here. And compassion is right there at the pillar of this. We can start by looking up, and around. We can start by opening our arms. Not building barriers. We can start by giving thanks for this richness in our world. Yep. Happy Thanksgiving.
“We seldom realize, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of languages and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.”
― Alan W. Watts
“Culture does not make people. People make culture.”
― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.”
― Joseph Fort Newton