And how do we find our way on unfamiliar terrain when the GPS just doesn't have the answer? Culture is the MapQuest for life. It is how we make sense of the world. Our lives are really about the relationships we have with people and the environment...and culture is what guides us as we create those relationships. What does our culture give us that helps us make sense of the world? Cultural artifacts, they are tools we use to make our way in the world. Yes there is MapQuest, but also myth, literature, stone axes, clocks, religion, etc. They are a way of orienting ourselves in time and space... of going native. In our MapQuesty culture we have a linear relationship with time...it progresses and we ride along from past to present to future. It is what allows us to organize our space into mappable quadrants. There are other ways of orienteering through time. Polynesians, Barasana and the San don't ride time like a river...for them time is more like gravity, a force which envelops and infuses, pulls in all directions and no direction at the same time. Either way the measurement of time is a cultural artifact, a tool for finding our way, it can be a watch on the wrist or a vision in the mind. Culture is also fluid...variously it can set us in our ways or provide inspiration for imagining completely new relationships with the world. It can determine the course of an entire civilization or turn it on its head - as in the anti-globalization movement becoming a global phenomenon.
Globalization has taken a bad rap in some quarters and fair enough. But the phenomenon is not new, even if this recent version is the most virulent. Romans, Muslims, Christians, Zamfir, King of the Pan Flute are all examples of the process. It can be a rapacious beast devouring cultures and McDonaldizing the planet, or it can be a way of interacting with people and the environment, a source of energy for discovering new levels of creativity. Culture can become energized by mixing and mingling. The intersection of different peoples is always an exciting place to be. And really, is there such a thing as a "pure" culture? It's true our common origin is etched into our mitochondrial DNA...but is there a common culture? Or did each band of homo sapiens have their own brand, indeed did each little monkey put his/her own spin on the group ethos? I think the desire to create and share is irresistible. Spreading our culture is a viral addiction...we can't stop ourselves...we have to culturize the planet. In one sense globalization is a return to our roots, a way to be authentic...as is refusing to be hybridized and turned into a deep fried McZombie. So globalization? Bring it on, the good and the bad...I just hope it doesn't come with fries.
Thanks to Henrietta Moore, Still Life: Hopes, Desires, and Satisfactions , Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World .
That's all I have for now. .