Sunday, April 23, 2017


If we stipulate, as appears scientifically well grounded, that the mind by nature seeks to create order, then we can define culture as the Emergent Property of this effort, with regard to the following domains:

The creation of meaning, purpose, and human connection, all of which are biological needs.

The formation of clear ideas about what is true, and methods for determining it.

The proper way for people to relate to one another, from the family to the entire planet.

The proper means of ensuring physical survival, comfort, and perhaps even prosperity.

Cultures are in a constant process of formation, destruction, and alteration, and we all of necessity live within them, and are shaped by them.

The Self, society and culture are all self similar.  This does not mean, obviously, that a person from one culture can be fit within another, but that we all exist within cultures, and it cannot be otherwise.

What is absent in the modern era is compulsion to FORCE people to adopt specific behaviors which we also used to call culture.  In America, arranged marriage is uncommon, but very common in India.  Young men and women both have to accept it to remain a part of their native culture. If they do not, the link of self similarity is broken, but since cultures evolve continuously, the meaning and extent of this break can evolve continually, as perhaps new understandings are created.

The desire to avoid violence and war is also a cultural attribute, one of modern Liberal culture.  It is not a rejection of culture per se.

Cultures cannot be created.  This is the core error of Rouseau in his concept of Legislator, and the countless gallons of blood which people attempting to enact his ideas have spilled uselessly.

Cultures--like a bacteria culture--can be planted and watered and fed, and may or may not take root.  But they have a fundamentall chthonic character.  When deep, they arise from unconscious roots.

We are all continuous cocreators both of our sense of self, and of our culture.  Every wink, nod, shaking of the head, widening of the eyes, choice of words, participation or boycott, every social decision we make, has an effect on this thing which is not a thing, but which is also not not a thing.

The skeleton of a culture, what holds it together, is ideas.  This is true even if it is a tribal or traditional culture based on ancestral stories.  There is still the idea that these stories are true and relevant, and that the ritual activities associated with them are important.

Our culture currently rests on bad ideas.  The formation of meaning in important respects is inseparable from the formation of truth concepts, and it is difficult to overstate the importance of the notion of materialism, that we are machines made of meat, destined to be hurled into blackness after a short period of pointless activity and in many cases no small amount of emotional and physical pain.

The idea of materialism--now apparently called Physicalism--matters.  It matters a great deal.

Cultures, like selves, change over time, and like a rain shower are never replicated even day to day in exactly the same way.

An idea I would like to stipulate is that we can work slowly and gradualistically to shape our own culture, both by internalizing notions of the possibility and desireability and path to personal spiritual growth, and the idea that we are immortal beings, which is what the best, most honest science indicates.

It is logical to seek endless distraction from an endless void one cannot escape.  But it is not logical to ignore paths forward to greater happiness, physical well-being, and social harmony and connection.

A continuum can be drawn between a very specific cultural type where all details of life are more or less choreographed in full--let us say among traditional Vedic Indians--and a condition in which the physical body is COMPLETELY relaxed.  All of us are the same in relaxation.  Our cultures arise, I think I can argue, from our thoughts, and our tensions, which are related.  What thoughts make you tense?  This will vary from culture to culture.  What should one pay attention to?  This varies culture to culture.

But body awareness, human biology when healthy, is the same everywhere.  There is no language when there are no thoughts, and without language--including imagistic language, which is to say the pictures in our heads--there is no difference among humans.  We are all the same.  We can call this nature.

Rousseau apparently used to do a primitive form of Kum Nye by lying on a raft on a lake and just feeling his being.  Would that he had known about Kum Nye.  Perhaps we might have avoided the 100 million or more deaths in the 20th Century that attended the efforts to legislate and change human nature.

The one thing Allan Bloom makes very clear is that bad ideas produce shitty cultures, and that the idea that there are no shitty cultures is an example of a bad idea.  Well, he perhaps did not quite say that--he is keeping a very high level and honestly professorial attitude--but that is what I in any event will say.

And I would say that the point of culture is for all of us to become gods ourselves.  We all have sparks of the Divine in us, and our job in this life is to fan those sparks into flames, and become as self similar to the Creator as humanly possible. Our political path is to meet Madison's criteria for ending governments: making of all men and women angels.

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