Defining culture

Culture is fluid. It moves in all directions. While it might be what defines a country or group of people, but in the world of globalization, that’s constantly changing too.

An offering to the tree god, northern India

An offering to the tree god, northern India

As a travel writer, I traveled the world with the obscure goal of experiencing as much of the world as I possibly could, something that might have been culture. I’m a good traveler, and have a knack for adapting and feeling at home anywhere.

Kushinagar, India

Kushinagar, India

But the definition of culture is so slippery it slips out of my hand as soon as I think I have it.

Annual Khasi Nongrem dance, Meghalaya, India

Annual Khasi Nongrem dance, Meghalaya, India

A reader at the newspaper once wrote an angry letter because I wrote about culture on the desert. It’s different here, I wrote. We have the culture of wind and coyote, not what you find in the cities. The letter writer accused me of elitism. How dare you say we don’t have culture, she wrote. Look at all the theater and music we have for a small town.

Eng grandmother and child, Shan State, Burma

Eng grandmother and child, Shan State, Burma

It’s not what I said. If culture defines a place, what defines the desert? What is culture and how does it really define a place?

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10 thoughts on “Defining culture

  1. Ha – thanks for the morning shot of humor Jordan. Oh wait, perhaps your offended reader wasn’t being sarcastic about how much culture Susanville has? If not, it makes her statement even funnier – I love unintentional humor! You know I’m not dissing your decision to live there Jordan, especially since your presence is such a loving oasis for parched souls there, I just had a “Beverly Hillbillies” moment when I read her statement. Blessings & stay stoked, TAB

  2. I’m all for a broader definition, and after your travels, you must be, too. I’m not even sure that culture depends on the presence of people – desert culture might include plenty of aspects that exist independently of us. The danger, I suppose, is in thinking one culture is better than another – just different, and vive that!

    • Yes, I certainly find culture or whatever it is in outdoor spaces, whether that’s oceans or deserts. It creates its own art. Cities have something unique too, and you’re right. They’re just different is all.

  3. Wonderful wonderful pictures, & very interesting. A tree god? How do they “know” of all the trees, which is the tree god?

    Thankyou for showing me outside my doors.

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