Sunday, April 28, 2013


CULTURE AND GETTING ON IN LIFE

The problem with words is, they have very little meaning outside of the context in which they are used, and outside the understanding of the word by its speaker. Perspective comes from experience - whether lived or read. Words are used in context of the perspective, both historical and experiential, of the speaker.

It came to me that other than relatives, I know no one under age 40.  This does not include friends' kids - with whom I have very little connection.   If we go fishing I am good for baiting the hook or cooking - but  discussion - yea they are too busy pretending adults are so far out of the loop of reality their time would be wasted in a conversation.  So I really know very little about people under 40, other than what I might hear from a news talking head or a Hollywood type doing an interview.  A poll or two may also give me some insight into those under 40.

I watch a movie or TV show and hear a reference and laugh - but people under 40 -and in particular under 30 have no connection to the reference.  For me this is fine - my generation is moving on while the new generation is defining the here and now. 

Such is life - We do not have an oldies station.  This is amazing given we are a retirement community.

I have lived an incredibly privileged life.  I did not learn Shakespeare's wit in a high school classroom having his works read aloud in a dry monotone voice.   I learned about his wit in live theater in Manhattan.  The same goes for ballet, opera and Broadway.  Trust me, road shows can be a disaster.  I will never forget I went to go see Evita as a  road show in San Francisco.  I saw the original cast on Broadway.  One person in the group saw the original cast in London.  The third person had never seen Evita.  The other girl and I were horrified just how bad it was, but the audience gave them a standing ovation.  The acting was so bad they laughed when they were to cry and cried when they were to laugh. 

Again - words - privilege is not money - its is about exposure to diversity.  I have travelled the world.  The early years after daddy died in 63' were hard and poor - but mom got an education and we all learned to work.  Nicaragua was an easy vacation - the flight from Miami to Managua was free - my great uncle was the owner's barber.  All we needed to do was earn enough to get to Miami and a few dollars to spend.  In Nicaragua I learned the joy of travelling on buses with pigs and chickens. 

When I came of age I travelled - I never feared the bus, or riding in the baggage car of a train to save money.  In some countries the baggage car is considered second or third class.

I do miss the days when I would say I am going on vacation and just buy a plane ticket to somewhere.  Back then you did not have to book in advance for a good price.  I would get to the country I chose and ask the taxi driver to take me to a clean youth hostel.  This is what I mean by privilege.  I have met the world.

Until you have walked the streets of Manhattan as a New Yorker you do not know Manhattan.  If you listen carefully you will hear 200+ languages.  You will smell the food of 200+ countries.  This is privilege - and for a lot or poor kids - they live it every day.

I hate when I hear people say some small community does not have culture.  I looked up the definition of culture and saw the term "intellectual achievements."  What the hell is that? - is it an intellectual achievement that in the US we hook our elderly up to machines and pump them with morphine so as to extend their life?  I think not.  Intellectual achievement is the indigenous tribe which knows when it is time and they use local poisons to help their elderly go into a permanent sleep and  finally be allowed to be at peace.

Culture is merely who we are.  When I was in Peru a British couple kept on noting my desire to eat only true local food when in the Andes was going to end me up in the hospital.  While in Lima I hated the fact almost every where you went was Italian of Chinese food.   We would be in a small Andean village and I would run (yea I'm laughing too)  down an alley based on  a smell.  I would not even ask what it was.  If it smelled good I ate it.  For the man living in the village cooking in a small  brick oven and living in a small home outback this is his culture.  And you know what - it was beautiful.  It defined him as a human being.  He is part of the mosaic which is humanity.  I can tell you until you see the entire mosaic, you have not seen the extraordinary beauty which is God's creation. 

I have written many times, I love the sounds and smells of Southmost on the weekends.  You can be a billionaire in New York and never experience such an important part of the human mosaic - culture.  So much for being a billionaire.  Money is funny - it tends to keep people away from people.  New York has its culture - but it is its culture - and not culture as a concept.  If your life is limited to the culture of cities like New York - you have missed out on culture, and in fact live a very sheltered life.

The sad part of when I travel is how tourists like to see the outside world as if they are in a zoo looking at animals in cages.  They fear walking among the locals or eating their food.  I will never forget the day I drank the purple corn beer in the Andes.  The locals drink it but not the tourists.  How can you say you experienced the Andes and its people if you have not drank their beer? 

The locals saw me as a curiosity because they were not use to tourists drinking down the purple corn beer - my tour group was just waiting for me to collapse and be rushed to the hospital.

Again words have no meaning without the perspective of  both the historical and experiential life of the speaker. So when I say I have lived a privileged life - I am not talking money.  I am talking about having experienced culture - true culture.  Or said another way - the people of the world.  Even in the small corner of an alley restaurant rarely if ever seen by a tourist.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great story. I agree completely. I haven't traveled as much as I would like and fear that life will pass me by without having attained a true sense of culture.

Anonymous said...

I agree and if possible search out local places to eat when traveling even in the US. I avoid chains for the most part. Have had some great experiences doing that.

Anonymous said...

Bobby: Great article. Please write more about your travels and experiences it is very educational.
You would make a good teacher at Bisd.