Using the quotation below as a starting point, reflect on the role that culture plays in your life.
“Culture is what presents us with the kinds of valuable things that can fill a life. And insofar as we can recognize the value in those things and make them part of our lives, our lives are meaningful.” Gideon Rosen, Stuart Professor of Philosophy, chair of the Council of the Humanities and director of the Program in Humanistic Studies, Princeton University.
I first experienced the value of culture at a young age. It was one of my grandparents greatest desires for me to become a cultured person, an individual who recognizes and appreciates not just our Western art, customs, and principles, but those of people across the world. As a result, they often took me to art museums and encouraged me to watch television that they believed would encourage me to understand others, and stimulate my curiosity about other cultures.
Although I gave no concern at first, by continually being exposed to others’ cultures, I learned that culture is not merely customs people engage in, but the main source of joy and happiness for individuals. Thus, I was determined to derive joy by embracing my own culture. I began by painting. I found the practice of brushing a white canvas with swaths of color quite exhilarating. My grandmother herself enjoyed art and urged me to produce it. The more I painted, the more I enjoyed it, but my experience with culture did not stop with painting.
As a child, I was quite shy and introverted, and I found others to be intimidating. Each time I met someone that I did not know, I became afraid. However, I soon realized that the world is filled with people, and the only way to survive is to embrace them. When I did, I became more outspoken and more confident in my abilities. It was then that I realized that culture is fundamentally composed of people, and that in order to fully experience culture, you must share it with others. By becoming more friendly and embracing others, I shared my own desires and learned the likes and dislikes of them, finding that in doing so my life became meaningful.
Through my experience, I have found that culture is what connects people together. It is the very fabric through which we learn to interact with others and understand each other. Through the television we watch, the plays we attend, and the art we appreciate, we grow and grow values of love, hatred, vengeance. Ultimately, those values and the meaning that we derive is our culture, without which, life maintains no significance. As Plato said, “The soul takes nothing with her to the next world but her education and her culture.” To which, I say, make the most of culture. Try not to whither away, sliding through life without caring to take embrace in culture, but learn its value. Learn the distinctive qualities of surrounding people, and, in doing so, make life meaningful as I learned to do.