GNL number 99

a report on doings at the meeting #99, Sunday, October 18, 2015
including liturgical items, major themes and other odds and ends


THEME

A general description first: We were such a small group—Ann, Katherine, her daughter Barbara, and Nancy—that we (forgot our invocation and) got right into conversation on the topic, CULTURE. And this was a rich conversation with much back and forth, covering a lot of territory and several aspects of culture.
Ann gave us a good start with a quote from an essay in the New Yorker (12/14/14, “The Meaning of Culture”): “The most positive aspect of ‘culture’—the idea of personal, human enrichment—now seems remote. In its place the idea of culture as unconscious groupthink is ascendent.” And much of the meeting we were recalling ways culture, as quality of a person or of a society, is “given” to us.
Barbara vividly recalled, on the death of her mother’s mother, her Ghanian caregiver’s“death-wail”, a tradition from her culture, which was unnerving and scary to those unfamiliar, but probably was meant as proper expression of personal grief, and release. Barbara also spoke of the lack of a sense of community among people in two of her familiar settings; the music performance scene, and her workplace.
Katherine was quick to point out a common slowness among us in this society to notice how acculturated we are, for example, in our so frequent response to things: “That’s the way it is”/“It’s always been so.” And she spoke again of the need for mind-opening, as in Michael Schermer’s course on debunking myths like these we tend to accept blindly via conditioning from media and other purveyors of culture.
Nancy read definitions of two main meanings of the word culture, and then keying on that of societal conventions here in America today, offered her opinion of a couple “good” aspects, and a lot more “not so good”, for which see AFTERWORDS.

We agreed to send our offering today to YES magazine, a non-profit organization whose business it is to report on and encourage efforts to nourish a culture of community and care for the earth.

 


NEXT TIME

Sunday, November 8 (10:30), at Louise Johnson’s Sky Hill farm. The subject is Culture, Part II (or anything else on your mind).

 


AFTERWORDS

from Nancy

a couple dictionary definitions of culture:

1—the distinctive practices and beliefs of a society.
(from the New School Dictionary)

2—quality in a person or society that arises from interest in arts, letters, scholarly pursuits, etc.
(from the Random House Dictionary)

and some quotes:

We seldom realize, for example, that our most private thoughts and emotions are not actually our own. For we think in terms of language and images which we did not invent, but which were given to us by our society.
~~~Alan Watts

If you see in any given situation only what everybody else can see, you can be said to be so much a representative of your culture that you are a victim of it.
~~~S.I. Hayakawa

and some mostly cranky thoughts of my own:

What’s discouraging about current American culture:
~~ our slavish preoccupation with having and buying more and more STUFF, never enough. And that we’ve been persuaded we need so much to be ok, successful, happy.
~~ that we have mostly abandoned the natural world, and in the process of being needy controlling consumers, are destroying the planet.
~~ that we do everything too fast.
~~ that we are on phones or screens so much of each day.
~~ that we’ve mostly lost our value for community, and a social contract:  everyman for himself.
~~ that our media are telling us not only what to consume, but what to think and believe.
~~ that we don’t see that our values too often have been handed down by cultural norms that have been advanced and reinforced by institutions, especially corporate media, and even schools, churches, etal.
~~ that we tend to know so little about the rest of the world that we think our way is the only way.
~~ and all this, without getting into our long history of patriarchal white-male-based culture that’s still operative in spite of human rights gains, especially as seen in a kind of paranoid, militaristic reflex under the name of patriotism, or self-defense, or security.

And where’s some encouragement about our culture:
~~ that there’s still a strong value for fairness here, and many human rights actions and gains — more equal opportunity for women, gays, people of different color, ethnicity than in previous generations.
~~ that there’s a sense of change in the air, that our culture is after all dynamic, in process — with thousands of local initiatives going on without much notice by MSM, but word and ideas spreading so quickly nonetheless through the Internet.

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