The Cultural Bridge

The following  idea is developed after a lot of research and consultation with a lot of people. The idea written below is not solely a product of my imagination. I must agree, Sharon Rhoads has helped me change my views comepletely. With this, I extend my gratitude towards her and give her the credits she deserves.

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Culture is the part and parcel of human society. It is a prism of realities. In simpler words, culture is just like our mother tongue. Just as we start learning our language even before we understand its importance and use, we start learning our culture way before we are even aware of what it is.

Culture seeps into us, through the bedtime stories that we read, or the music that we listen. It also gets into us subtly through the religious traditions, holidays, celebrations, and the works of literature and mythology.

Strangely enough, culture still remains one the most misunderstood concepts in the world of humanities.

People, since ages, have misunderstood the meaning of the term, ‘culture’. Culture is how you live and who you are, not where you live. For instance, fishermen have a “culture”. People who live in homeless camps and shelters have a “culture”. People who are very wealthy have a “culture”. The people of a certain culture will understand each other and the life they live, but outsiders will not. Every one of us has our own “culture” that has nothing to do with where we live and still everything to do with who we are.

Nations these days rarely contain a single “culture” within their borders. When we talk about “culture” we need to be clear about its meaning. When we use that word, we are not referring to different countries. We are, in fact, referring to the differences in how we see the world, how we see ourselves, how we see others and how we live our lives. Did you know that deaf people have a “culture”? Or for that matter, circus performers have a “culture”. Even the surfers have a “culture”. And all these “cultures” separate people from each other because they don’t understand the other “cultures” around them.

But ‘culture’ hasn’t always remained a favourable influence.

A lot of times, in fact, it has worked against us. It made us look down at others as ‘different’. It acted as a wall, more than the link it was supposed to be. It stood for ages, dividing us on the basis of our differences. These are quite evident from the outright wars that had been waged between the east and the west, the Arabs and the Non-Arabs, the blacks and the whites and so on.

The internet, television and movies today, show us all the other parts of the world. But, they seldom help us understand the people who have different “cultures”. How well do you understand the “culture” of the deaf? They have their own language and a set of social expectations.

These are the walls that need to be knocked down!

In order to further this, One Million Project, OMP came up with this idea; the idea of knocking down the Cultural Walls and converting them into Cultural Bridges. So here we are, starting another wonderful project where we would like to have writers, artists, musicians and others share something about their culture on this online platform. Let our audience know about a different culture every few days, not through the humdrum routine textbooks they’d pick up in their high schools or libraries, but through the real stories about the real human experience.

Because sometimes we need more than an anthropologist or a sociologist to teach us culture. We need each other!

Moinak Das
(with special thanks to Sharon Rhoads)

The Cultural Bridge

For more information on the project, please visit us on The Cultural Bridge and tell us how you feel about it. We are currently in our initiation stage. So if something doesn't work for you, don't hesitate to comment there. Thank you.

 

 Remembering Mortality

 Remembering Mortality

By Michele Potter

As a kid, summers seemed as endless as my imagination. Growing up on a farm, the barn, the creek, the cornfields, and the woods presented opportunities for wild playacting and serious fun. Of course, my brothers and I had to do some chores, but even that was fun in the summer. We grew strong and tanned, and problems of the world were far away.

As a teenager, everything became complicated. I suffered from what I thought was “boredom,” a sense of needing to be entertained and trying to act like an adult. I pretended to be unimpressed by life. Like my friends, I wore an invisible shield of invincibility. I would never get old; time would stretch on indefinitely giving me the luxury of procrastinating. And it didn’t matter how many mistakes I made, either; life would give plenty of do-overs.

I’m not sure at what stage in my life I noticed that the shield had quit working. It took me a while, honestly. The rough and tumble of living should have slapped me hard long before it did. People I loved were lost; heartaches no longer healed. I quit bouncing back so easily. I never got any do-overs. What the hell happened to the time?

Big revelation: None of us have that much time.

I was reminded of this—rather harshly—at a recent family funeral. A cold windy day, most of us complained as we walked out to the cemetery. My uncle stayed back, saying, “I’ll be there soon enough!” Generally known for being a joker and storyteller, he wasn’t joking. Cancer had caught up with him, and time was running out.

We’ll all be there soon enough.

There’s a lot of things I need to do yet. I want to finish that novel I started, go on that bucket list trip, walk in the sunshine some more, and spend more time with my granddaughters before they grow up.

That old grim reaper likes to pick people off when they least expect it. I expect to be one of those protesting, “Wait! I’m not done yet!” From all I’ve seen, I don’t believe he has much patience. But I still have hope of some determination of my demise. Like my great aunt once said, “I don’t mind dying, I just don’t want to go head first.” She passed away at 104, in full possession of her faculties.

Maybe we all need reminders of our mortality. That is the reason for our greatness. If we had all the time in the world, nothing would get done, would it? Starting today, I’m going to make that call I’ve been putting off, take that chance, skip that piece of cake, and maybe get a little exercise. Also, I’m dusting off my novel to see what it looks like now.

What’s on your list?