GNL number 100

a report of doings at meeting #100, Sunday, November 8, 2015

including liturgical items, major themes, and other odds and ends


2 views of the word Culture:

The acquiring of culture is the development of an avid hunger for knowledge and beauty. ~~~architect Jesse Bennett

Launch your boat, blessed youth, and flee at full speed from every form of culture. ~~~Epicurus

This meeting on CULTURE 2 continued last month’s exploration of Culture, and today the conversation centered on our own experience of culture, especially as family heritage.

Sue, for example, spoke of growing up very aware of her “difference” as a Jew, but also glad of the wisdom of her elders, especially of her mom, whose studies in anthropology set up her daughter’s interest in Margaret Mead et al. Both experiences helped her feel as “other” and for others, and set the stage for her becoming a story teller. She also gave us many great quotes, including a list of cultural universals, for all of which see AFTERWORDS.

Louise, as a member of a big Catholic family, spoke of learning and appreciating the signs of that cultural tradition at weddings and wakes. But her heart was not in her Catholic tradition or schooling, and her travels abroad were more educational, and helped her assert her own ideas, especially as she began teaching where the curriculum did not consider the culture and interests of the mostly African-American students.

Vijaya recounted the story of her father’s starting and running his metal furnace business, and his ethic of caring for others, particularly his employees. And she recalled her mother’s as well, as her mom would always be feeding neighbors and the hungry. Which reminded Vijaya of the deeper and broader quality of poverty in India than here, which she said persists today. All this is her heritage, she said.

Cynthia recalled memories of the two so different ethnic streams of her family—the fair, North European Presbyterians, living the quiet small farm life in upstate NY; and the dark-haired, boisterous Italians outside Boston. And she remembered her Italian Grandpa saying God Bless America each time a military plane flew over, and her own regret that he wouldn’t allow any of the family to speak Italian, so much did he wish them all to be really American.

Gail remembered not only her mom and the heritage of assertive adventuring from her, but the places they had lived—Florida fishing villages, for instance, and particularly, New Orleans, with its Mississippi delta life and whole unique culture from French/Acadia/Afro-American roots. She said all the traveling she’s done since then has kept opening her to different ways of living, a very healthy thing. She also spoke of the captivating stories of an older Irish lady she’s been working with at church.

Ann spoke of her experience of many years with her late elderly friend who, like many women of that era was dominated and even abused by her husband. But Ann remembered as well the wonderful stories this dear friend told of her early life on the family farm in Stone Arabia. Ann also said her friend’s stories had underlined how culture can change even in one generation; eg, how that generation just made food dishes with what they grew, not even necessarily from recipes.

Nancy didn’t want to add much since she had talked a lot at CULTURE 1, but she did add a bit about the Invocation message of Epicurus, to the effect that there have been many others, philosophers and spiritual teachers, who also counseled not holding blindly to custom and culture, but instead to do the inward examining needed for wisdom. See AW for a contemporary quote from one of our favorite cartoonist philosophers

We decided to direct our offering to the Center for Sustainable Communities and the new Board that will continue the work begun by Bob Nied, who will be moving to Vermont.


(The fundamental values of a true community are elsewhere:) In love, poetry, disinterested thought, the free use of the imagination, the pursuit of non-utilitarian activities, the production of non-profit-making goods, the enjoyment of non-consumable wealth—here are the sustaining values of a living culture. ~~~Lewis Mumford, Faith for Living


Sunday, December 13, 2015 (1030), again at Louise’s Sky Hill farm. The subject is the Way “LOVE Involves a Peculiar Unfathomable Combination of Understanding and Misunderstanding” (from a quote by Diane Arbus).


from Sue

Culture 2
Anthropological Definition—based on Franz Boas: “Culture: The system of shared beliefs, values, customs, be-haviours, and artifacts that the members of society use to cope with their world and with one another, and that are transmitted from generation to generation through learning.”

“Whenever I hear the word culture, I reach for my revolver.” ~Hermann Goering

“One cannot expect positive results from an educational or political action program which fails to respect the particular view of the world held by the people. Such a program constitutes cultural invasion, good intentions notwithstanding.” ~ Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

“What would it be like to have not only color vision but culture vision, the ability to see the multiple worlds of others.” ~Mary Catherine Bateson, Peripheral Visions
“The crucial differences which distinguish human societies and human beings are not biological. They are cultural.” ~Ruth Benedict

“Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” ~Rita Mae Brown, Starting From Scratch
“The third layer of culture consists of cultural universals. These are learned behavior patterns that are shared by all of humanity collectively. No matter where people live in the world, they share these universal traits. Examples of such “human cultural” traits include:

  1. Communicating with a verbal language consisting of a limited set of sounds and grammatical rules for constructing sentences
  2. Using age and gender to classify people (e.g., teenager, senior citizen, woman, man)
  3. Classifying people based on marriage and descent relationships and having kinship terms to refer to them (e.g., wife, mother, uncle, cousin)
  4. Raising children in some sort of family setting
  5. Having a sexual division of labor (e.g., men’s work versus women’s work)
  6. Having a concept of privacy
  7. Having rules to regulate sexual behavior
  8. Distinguishing between good and bad behavior
  9. Having some sort of body ornamentation
  10. Making jokes and playing games
  11. Having art
  12. Having some sort of leadership roles for the implementation of community decisions

Poem by Syrian/American writer Mohja Kahf: My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears

Thich Nhat Hanh is indeed progressing in his recovery from a massive stroke last November. Here’s what I found:
* 8th September 2015: Announcing that Thay is receiving a full rehabilitation program in San Francisco. Although recovery remains very challenging, he has been able to say a few words
* 14th July 2015: Announcing that Thay has requested to intensify his rehabilitation program, and has been transferred to the USA, to receive treatment at UCSF Medical Center, California
* 28th June 2015: Announcing that Thay is able to eat, to vocalise and sing, and has begun to take his first steps walking
* 6th April 2015: Announcing that Thay has returned to his Hermitage at Plum Village, where he continues his recovery in the peaceful, natural environment of his spiritual home.

From Nancy

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential—as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.

To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but its still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble. Bill Watterson


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