“Culture may even be described simply as that which makes lifeworth living.” Notes Towards a Definition of Culture(1948)
I’ve reflected on the idea of culture many times before and I love immersing myself completely into new ones on a regular basis, the root of this curiosity stemming from a perceived lack of culture in my own life. What I learned about myself through this was that I am my own culture. I believe we all are.
The more ways I experience life, the more open minded I become and the more I see that I am not in need of belonging to any one way of being in the world. If anything I am grateful to know the freedom associated with not being attached to one way of life.
That being said I love seeing cultural practices alive and well because there is ALWAYS an element of connection to the earth and the creator which is so primal and calls to the very very animal nature in all of us. So this is the dichotomy; the love/hate of it all. I see how people fighting for their culture can become angry and resentful, pulling them further from their truth. I see how one culture believing they are “right” has detrimental effects on other human beings. I see what one needs to give up in order to stay connected to anything pure. And I see that fear lies somewhere beneath the surface of all of this.
Fear of what? Fear of not knowing who we are if we are not our culture? Of feeling a sense of being lost in the world without it to identify with? Feeling like an outsider on the inside when we run into something within a culture that doesn’t seem to fit us?
Through the practice of Yoga, which in itself is a culture, I came to understand myself as something much greater than any external thing, rule or idea. I practice identifying with my highest Self which is a practice everyday as I am met with my very real human nature which my physical self and my mind provide for me.
If I identify with my Soul, as the term Namaste suggests, then what purpose does Culture serve in forming my identity and is it beneficial to human evolution?
As a “white” person living in Central/Northern Canada I am reminded daily that I am not a native to this country in various ways. My heritage is questioned every day at my workplace as I engaged with Native people of this land. In Rwanda it was even more blatantly obvious that I was not of the land by the simple fact that I had white skin and blond hair. And yet in both of these places I felt I belonged somehow and found great connection to the people. Traveling to other countries and immersing myself into cultures helps me see the thread which runs through all of us……….Oneness.
My ancestors came from Norway, Ireland, Scotland and England as far as I know. I identify mostly with the Norwegian side, I think because of my blond hair and blue eyes…….also the gap in my front teeth which I inherited from my Grandfather who was full blood Norwegian. This is my fathers side of the family.
My grandfather married a local girl in Alberta whose parents were from England. My great Grandfather, her father, started the first Newspaper in Vermilion, AB – the Vermilion Standard which still exists today. It wasn’t until I started to write that I realized I had roots in this field and I began to see myself more clearly in terms of my genetic blood line, my human qualities began to take more shape.
My mother’s mother was Irish and married a Military Airplane Mechanic whom she met in her 30’s. He was of Scottish decent as far as we know. I never met my grandfather but from what I hear he was a quite and gentle man. My grandmother was not! She was feisty and independent. She loved to dance, cook and gamble! I definitely see myself in her! They didn’t meet and marry until their late 30’s which in that day and age was very late!
All of these people are living in Canada today because someone in their family was brave enough to get on a ship, sail across the ocean with very little and enter into a new land with hopes of a better life, or maybe just for the adventure. They did so with great courage, personal strength and faith – wether they knew it or not these are the qualities they brought over with them began planting some very wild seeds. It is these seeds which laid the foundation for the next generation of adventurers, my parents and now me.
My parents, two farms kids from rural Alberta got married and moved to Northern Manitoba in their early 20’s. Adventures by nature, they flew the coop and unknowingly created what would become my norm. I was born and raised in Manitoba and consider the North my home. It wasn’t until I left that I realized how much the Native culture I grew up around had influenced who I had become.
So with all of these characteristics, genes and cultural backgrounds how on earth could I identify with any one culture. And with life being so easy these days compared to the harsh reality my ancestors faced to provide me with the only life I know, how is one to find a cure for the inherited fiery adventurer spirit?
Never identifying as one type of person and constantly updating and recreating how I exist in this world. I go against the grain, searching for meaning in all experiences and utilizing the gift of the life I have been given, thanks to my ancestors efforts at a “better life” for themselves. They may not have experienced much of the supposed “good life” that they thought was awaiting them but I benefitted from their goal being realized to a certain point. Is it then my role to continue building on their dream by creating my dreamlife? It’s as if every soul/life is connected and seeks to support the next generation in reaching a “better” place in which to be human. Evolution of the human spirit one generation at a time.
Being “white” (as I am referred to in The Pas) or a Muzungu (which I am referred to in Rwanda) I am lumped into a category of people which has become a diluted version of various European cultures which facilitates, if one is to place weight on culture as identity, a great sense of disconnect from me as a human being, the same as everyone else in the world.
The practice of identifying myself as something greater than anything earthly supports me in this place of lacking a pure cultural identify which once held my life hostage. I believe as humans evolve and move away from identifying with these ideas there will eventually be more peace in the world. Not that cultures will disappear but the fear around losing them will be replaced by a celebrating heart which seeks to share in our common human experience.
Where I once felt lost I now feel at home. My existence on earth is unique in this day and age with the ability to travel to the other side of the world in only a day or two and communicate in different languages with friends around the world on my phone. Instead of holding tight to someone else’s idea of who I am, I now have created my own culture which lives within me. It has flow, movement and is always taking in, shifting and updating along with me. It has become who I am and how I exist in the world, I don’t need to think about it or fight for it as it simply exists.
What worked for me one day may not work the next but I carry the experiences with me in my back pocket for when a time arises where I am called to utilize the skills I acquired and thus more learning takes place as I see how one experience facilitates success in another.
What began as a barrier is now my key to freedom. The feeling of being lost led me to an awareness of a life long journey full of wonder and curiosity. This is my practice, my art, my Culture of Self.