According to my blog title, I’m supposed to write about this idea of culture. It’s a very broad idea. I think the main reason for this is because culture (on my blog) is about my journey to explore, to experience it. Not so much worried about defining it.
So what is this idea of culture/cultural experiences for me? A cultural experience is anything that gets me excited and happy about living; it is a meaningful and memorable one. The experiences give meaning to life itself. To sum up a few areas that have contributed to these joyful experiences for me, I look to four categories: Art, Travel, Heritage and Philosophy.
I’ve experienced the impact of Art in my life since I was at least 6 years old. I can remember making Japanese Origami in first or second grade. I remember being shown how to write a story at age 7 and still have the wide-lined notebook pages and crayon drawings to prove it. I remember seeing this mural in middle school by Thomas Hart Benton and realized that Art was an adult thing, too.
Thanks to the efforts of my mother, I took a few kinds of classes on creative expression from elementary into teenage years. I tried dance, violin, singing, abstract painting and craft jewelry making. I even tried nail design. But the art of writing always called me back home. Once I got to high school I realized that through Art I was connected to travel. I was soon exposed to many more varieties of art, and I was hooked. I look for it everywhere I go.
As a child my father was in the military and so I was born overseas in Germany. We weren’t there long after and soon returned to Omaha, Nebraska, where my parents were born. As I grew older, I remember moving a lot. I have been exposed to living in new environments for the first 20 years of my life. Moving from Omaha to Kansas City and back. Switching from one apartment to the next. I think I never went to the same school for a second year until I made it to high school.
When I was 15, I learned how to ride public transportation (also something my pops taught me). I did travel to other states too. My earliest memories of travel were going to visit my mother in San Francisco while she was on a work trip at age 6 and we went to the Children’s Museum. It was awesome. Then we went to Chicago a couple of times cause that’s where my grandma’s daddy used to live until he passed. I vaguely remember his small apartment, a dog, bars on the windows and some kind of weird smell. That was not so awesome.
We also had family in different cities and would go visit them often: Chicago, Kansas City, Arkansas (Little Rock and Alma), St. Louis. But it’s really because of my parents that I was able to travel other places throughout my life. And each trip exposed a new way of life. We went to visit her childhood friends in Sacramento, Calif. and Lorraine, Ohio. And then once I took my mama on a trip. I was in middle school when me and two friends won an African-American history competition with the 100 Black Men which got us an all expense paid trip to the nationals competition in Orlando, Florida. I met hundreds of other smart nerdy black kids and we even went to Universal Studios.
I recognize now that before I hit high school, I experienced quite a lot. My junior year we went to Seattle, WA for this national journalism competition. Such a great experience – this time no family was with me so that was a learning experience but I still had fun. The older I got, I traveled with friends in college and lately have even enjoyed traveling alone. Now that I’ve learned that experiencing culture involved art and travel, I wanted to know what else?
I was raised to understand the impact of having a heritage. My mother raised me on the concept of “taking a village to raise a child.” The village taught me a lot about my heritage even before I was able to pick up a book. By having a stronger understanding of who I am and where I came from, experiencing other cultures became even more valuable to me.
While I’m not going to divulge every nuance of my heritage as an African-American woman here, I will say that my experience has many layers of understanding to it. I will also admit that I’m still in the progress of living it. I learn something new about my heritage every day it seems. For the briefing just know that my heritage involves the importance of sharing knowledge of family history; it involves a spiritual outlook on our existence on this earth as human beings; it includes a daily commitment to navigating in a society that is not so excited to have a flourishing African-American/Black communities within its mainstream culture; and last but not least, it is about good food, music that you can make memories to, loyalty and creating a legacy for your children to be proud of. My heritage is deep yall.
Philosophical concepts have always intrigued me because they often influence people’s perspectives and how they experience the world around them. This is why it is relevant to the idea of culture. Philosophies are often ignored or not brought to light regarding how much power they really have in our lives. Sometimes we are affected on an subconscious level.
My favorite epiphany about philosophy is that even if we don’t realize it, we are impacted by it. Call it some “spiritual enlightenment” experience or something like that. I’d like to argue that by the time we recognize that this moment of realization is happening, we have the habit to re-categorize the concept and call it religion. Which I believe is wrong because it misinforms the user into thinking that other religions don’t lead to the same kind of enlightenment or already have the same philosophies. There are some universal philosophies that I believe apply to everyone. Even the folks who claim to have no religion. I think this is a really significant concept and possibly why I decided to translate philosophy into the concept of mindfulness, another area of emphasis on my blog.
Philosophy also largely influences how someone experiences culture. We all have a desired outcome for taking part in cultural experiences. Maybe your philosophy about life is to mind your own business, so you don’t care about other people’s culture. Maybe you believe that your own culture is more important and you tend to spend so much time experiencing your own culture that you have no time to learn others. Maybe you have the philosophy of living freely and no one is a stranger to you so you decide that the entire world has something to offer you. There are plenty of ways of approaching philosophies and how they intertwine with cultural experiences. I’m simply here trying to understand how and share with others why it all matters to me.
In summary, I just wanted to give a little background on my personal experiences. So the next time you read a post from me, you’ll see where I’m coming from. Hopefully we have some things in common. But even if we can’t relate, maybe you can still find value in learning from my experiences and share some cultural moments with me too!
Until next time, love life.