In life, moments can stop you in your tracks. Perhaps moments of shock, of complete confusion as to what people were thinking or the ‘wisdom’ informing certain actions or patterns of behaviour. Perhaps moments of beauty, of recognition that there’s wonderful potential dwelling within us as humans nestled into society.
In all life’s richness, there must be many moments that can offer up either reaction: nature’s generally pretty good at it; human nature also; and then there’s culture (see Notes One).
Sometimes I wonder what culture is (Notes Two). Although, of course, it can be defined with activities neatly categorised under its subheadings: ideas, customs, attitudes, beliefs; language and social behaviour; arts and intellectual achievements. Doing so, you’d likely get a pretty thorough ‘picture’ of culture as the thoughts we weave around life, the social and artistic activities we’re engaged in.
It’s just this absolutely massive picture. These days, there’s not only the ever-evolving richness of our own modern culture, growing seamlessly, as it does, from our understanding of the past; there’s also this ever-present awareness of the diversity of other cultures, and all the ways that’s feeding into this constant flow of human innovation and creativity.
It’s also now so individualistic: each wanting to define ourselves, to be a cultural phenomenon in our own right as this personality, brand or character in our life’s drama. From this limitless global palette, we can each craft a personal response through where we stand on any given issue. Surely a picture of both richness and division? Everything, and our thing.
Trying to distil complexities into more simple solutions is interesting. Because, watching someone play saxophone to a crowded shopping street, it’s clear that music in particular has this power to unite beyond our inevitable divisions (Note Three).
Everyone has their preferences, their memories, their cultural and generational experiences of genres or artists. A skilled musician can, apparently, blend references from the past and present, from different cultures, times and places, into a joyful and coherent flow with a quality all of its own. Things can be blended into beautiful celebrations of the present moment.
Anecdotally, live music has that capacity for engulfing everyone in this cloud of experience: uniting people through their own unique yet shared moment of emotion, memory, anticipation. The air can tingle with this mix of intention, recognition, appreciation that’s invisible to the naked eye.
And, of course, the musician plays because they want to. Likely because they love music, its performance, the atmosphere it can create. But I’d imagine if they thought only of themselves they’d be less successful? These things need an audience, and if you alienate rather than include you’re probably not going to create that social space people want to be part of.
Which is coming down to this question of what we’re creating through culture, through our social behaviour and those attitudes embodied within it all: how we blend things, the reality that’s becoming, and how well individual inclinations might meet within common spaces.
Notes and References:
Note 1: The human spirit
Note 1: Nature speaks in many ways, do we listen?
Note 2: Masks we all wear
Note 2: Cultural shifts & taking a backseat
Note 2: Truth, illusion & cultural life
Note 3: Music and its power to inspire
Casting an eye to how we come to understand those things which are new to us was the focus of Seeing, knowing and loving.