The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What is Culture and Why Does It Matter?

What is Culture and Why Does It Matter?

How can one define something that defies definition? To answer, “‘what is culture?’,” it just might be easier to first define what it is NOT.  Before that, I would like to say one thing constructive about culture: It just happens despite everything. Culture is NOT manufactured. It cannot be owned, for it is not like private property. Hence, culture cannot be sold, nor can it be mass marketed if it is “real” culture.  Like really good homemade chocolate chip cookies made by dear old Mom or Grandma, culture has the “secret ingredient” that store-bought o-highs and elfens don’t have. (If you don’t know the secret ingredient, then stop reading right now!).

Culture has a lot of parallels with art, as indeed “art” is part of culture, but not its sum. Does an artist sell a picture, a song, a poem, or a short-film in order to be famous or just to feed themselves and pay the rent? They may in fact sell a worse replica of that spirit that first inspired the idea, but no Guggenheim nor Louvre can buy the soul of she or he who created it.  An artist may sell the fruit of toil, sweet, and tears of creation, but only in a deal with a mustachioed Mephisto-patron of slaves and tyranny does the artist sell the blood and placenta of creation  for fame and fortune’s vinegar, spoiled wine.

Art is art if we like it. And on the other hand, culture is like art–it is what we see. What makes a ceramic chicken in a roost into a thorned crucifixion death-mask? It depends on if you look at it upside down (really, it does). Art does not define all that is culture, but it gives the sweet juice to the fruit of liberty from the tree of Life.

Culture lives, and it is what we see. It grows like a bud on a rose thorn stem, which is more colorful and vibrant than any picture–painted or photographed–can make it. And culture can be a delicious bratwurst with mustard, chopped fresh onions, and sauerkraut at the local  park watching the town’s semi-pro, poorly paid baseball team.  Artistry in June can take the sculpture of a former high school pitcher throwing a shut-out a block over from main street in the oak-surroundings of a field of real, not phony, dreams. There is culture in a skater on a pipe pulling off a double posey without breaking a leg.  Culture, like ripe tomatoes, is pulled off a vine that runs into the dirt from which it emerged, growing from the seed, the tendering, the watering in hot, dry July to make a sandwich for lunch at home. Like a garden, culture grows where it is, on the land and it is better just for that reason. It has more flavor than we realize. Imagine an apple not of our tree, but picked a long time ago from a plexaly far, far away from home. Further imagine that apple, green, too green, almost wickedly perfect green. Dread the day it tastes soylent. For that is how culture somehow owned and not ours would taste.

Culture: picnics, the “Chickasaurus” welded by the farmer from old tools, the one-time garage band that plays in the tavern down the street, the graffiti chalk on the sidewalk downtown–These things just happen and are ordered by themselves, not any god of media or Medea. And still, I for you, dear reader, cannot define culture, despite examples, except to adamantly proclaim what it is NOT: It is not a product of others or elsewhere. Culture happens when people “keep life alive by living it,” Evgraf.

One warning to all about the Kommissars of Mass Culture, dear friends. As caveats relating to the semper Tryannus, those with Caesars lurking in their souls, we must always remind ourselves about culture: It should always make us stronger as a people, as the community where we live; it should never have use to divide us. Culture is for everyone to give and take, and to accept it or reject it. WE ARE FREE PEOPLE in minds and spirits, and in other ways as well. Culture can give us all the reasons to live better and happier. Tend the tree of Life, for with its fruit of Liberty and the juice’s delicious tastefuls, our future as humans with humanity is guaranteed.