Culture from Latin cultura – growing, cultivation, from Latin colere – tend, cultivate – cultivation of the soil…and from this cultivation of the mind, faculties, manners
Without culture we exist in a world of the rational, linear, scientific ….empty of emotion, love, beauty, great art, design, music..
How do we put a dollar price on these?
How do you reduce to a dollar value the experience of seeing a work of art that moves you from the mundane to awe? Or from the simple joys of a family ritual of all-together-for-celebratory-dinner-time? For the punctuation points in life, celebrating birth, naming, graduation, marriage and death?
Culture is the glue that holds societies and communities together. Culture allows membership and belonging. It restores humanity. It keeps us humble.
Custom is a way of doing or engaging. It is customary in Australia for example to celebrate Christmas playing beach cricket, eating seafood or ham, followed by either Pavlova or Plum Pudding. It is also customary in Australia to not allow people to get ‘too big for their boots.’ We call that the tall poppy syndrome.
Custom may also be applied to techniques of delivery. An athlete may have a ritual of breathing or visualisation before each performance. A master chef may hold in reverence all of the ingredients and the process of cooking.
I wrote an article about 6 years ago on reverence as a business practice. (revised) What I know to be true is that when you experience a business that does revere their product or service delivery and their people and customers the effect is felt in multiple ways. I also know that in our world of fast food, fast money, fast love…people are yearning for the sacred. Does the sacred have a price tag?
When we enter into the domains of others, whether that be their homes, their countries, or their workplaces, respect for custom and culture allows a sensitivity to what may not feel comfortable or familiar to you. It is through observation, the willingness to accept and not impose, that we may learn a rich dimension of another’s custom and culture that adds to our own life experience. This is what lives in the word..to be a guest.
As colonial invaders we had little regard for this. There was our way, period. We did not value the thousands of years of heritable wisdom that preceded our domination. And in being so arrogant, we missed out on richness that we are only now beginning to recognise. Not to mention the harm we have done to peoples, land, communities, language.
Valuing custom and culture invites a deeper relationship with the very threads that make us human.