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5.2.12

Culture Ain't Just For Yougurt

Culture is a product of its constituent 'hearts' and 'minds.'  I use hearts and minds in their metaphorical senses, because despite the best efforts of science, they can not find organs or electro-chemical processes that produce those two things. 

There is a muscular pump called the heart, but it is not the literal seat of the emotions.  There is a mass of gelatinous circuits, but it is not the seat of reason.  These two things transcend the sum of the parts that we call human being.  And it is these two things that produce 'culture.'

Thus, culture is a product of the state of our collective hearts and minds.  It reflects the inner life of those who create and live within it.  What we together call 'beautiful' reflects directly on our most transcendent and metaphysical selves.

One of my favorite cities on Earth is Prague (Praha).  The name means 'threshold,' and is part of a longer name meaning 'threshold to the stars.'  The Old Town is a magnificent example of high architecture.  When one stands in the central plaza, one feels elevated and overwhelmed by the examples of stone, metal and wood transformed into practical, yet transcendent spaces.  The soaring cathedral, the Old Town Hall, the old city wall all elevate the senses, because everywhere you turn is a vista that evokes harmony, rhythm and mystique. 

By contrast, in the outlying areas are concrete gardens of grey boxes that were built during the Soviet occupation era.  These areas are lifeless and drab.  They depress the spirit and appear dirty and dilapidated, no matter how much cleaning and painting one applies to them.

Both parts of the city are basically practical areas for use by humans to contain and protect their daily lives.  Yet, one soars beyond the materials and uses for which they are intended, and the other is a dour and depressing utilitarian nightmare.

Language, too, is a central compenent of culture.  To see how our language has deteriorated, one need only compare Shakespeare with Judith Krantz.  The works of Shakespeare hammered the English language into something that transcended mere words.  Even if you have no clue what is being said, the meter and harmonics of the words being spoken are themselves a high art.  In contrast, Krantz' works are hardly elevated above street language, reflecting the basest emotions and desires of humans.

Choose any aspect of culture and compare today's twisted and dark shadows to the products of a century of two ago.  Compare Mozart with Lady GaGa.  Compare Michelangelo with Miro.  Compare Isaac Newton with Carl Sagan.  In every case, we can see the devolution and degradation of culture.

If we look for a cause, we can trace it directly to those in power and who control wealth.  In nearly every case, the great artists and thinkers of the past were supported in some way by kings and wealthy families.  Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo had the Medicis.  Mozart had the Austrian emperor.  Michalangelo had the Catholic Church. 

By the same token, modern artists and creators are sponsored by the wealthy and powerful, but now those supporters are not people, but corporations.  The result has been a hollowing out of culture.  A corporation is a creature or the state.  It has no soul or conscience.  It is literally a Frankenstein's Monster.  The corporation is a created lifeform without soul, heart or mind.  Therefore, whatever it supports and creates can never be elevated or sublime.  It will always be a reflection of the lifeless, soulless creature that sponsors it.

A corporation can not create anything more than copies of itself.  It is not endowed with those transcendent aspects of humanity called heart and mind.  It has no sense of beauty or harmony or rhythm.  It exists only to feed the baser desires of greed and power.  Therefore, whatever it sponsors will serve only the purpose of enriching itself in the near term.  It can never create something for the sake of beauty and to enrich the culture at large.  It is supremely self-centered and reflexive.

A Japanese corporation doesn't care about making films that elevate the heart and mind, and explore the human condition.  All it cares about is assembling the most elements that will pack the theater and make a profit before everyone figures out that it's just empty calories.  There's no spiritual nutrition in any single frame.

A music corporation doesn't care about lofty ideals and harmonic resonance with those who consume it.  Music is nothing more than a commodity of clap-trap that enough people will buy to turn a profit.

Because of corporate sponsorship, all art and culture have become nothing more than iron, grain and pork bellies.  There's no value added, no transcendence, no beauty.  It's just raw materials without creativity.  None of it will stand the test of time.  In less than a generation, it is all reduced to ugly eye-sores and atonal cacophony with no value past the bottom line of some anonymous, featureless organization.

Take any ancient European cathedral.  They are, at their basic level, nothing more than boxes designed to enclose a space.  In that sense, they are no different from any modern steel-and-glass monstrosity.  But when you enter a cathedral, you are confronted with a sensual metaphor for the human spirit.  We begin our journey in the nave next to the baptismal font.  Stretching out before us is a soaring cavern of pipe organs, incense and light that engage all the senses and provide a symbolic life's journey.

As you traverse the long, narrow central corridor, you are surrounded with vast windows of colored glass that cause the sunlight to sparkle and dance across the interior.  The windows contain symbols that remind us of higher ideals and goals, and provide reminders of lives we are meant to emulate.  As we walk, we draw closer to the altar, a symbolic heaven, surrounded in gold and richly adorned in paintings.  From a distance, it glows and beckons us forward.  Once we arrive, we are surrounded with beauty and harmony.  Looking back, the long cavern is dark and foreboding. 

Compare that experience to any modern architecture.  They are nothing more than ant hills designed to encapsulate the workers who produce wealth for the corporations.  There is no uplifting message or sensual engagement.  They are cold, lifeless spaces that are the direct manifestation of the entity that owns it.

Because we are surrounded with garbage, we see everything as garbage.  We create a disposable culture where we squeeze the pittance of juice from the dried up fruit of our labor and toss the lifeless husk away.  Our art and literature have been reduced to the lowest levels of passable consumption.  Our food and drink are just barely enough to sustain us.  Our manners and interactions with others are little more than masked disgust and disregard for other souls.  Our marriages, our families, our sex, our recreation, and every aspect of our lives are nothing more than wrappings for our ambitions and greed, to be thrown out when we have sucked the useful bits from inside.

We have, in fact, become our own creations.  We are nothing more than cold, lifeless, soulless corporations.  We care little for value and quality, seeking only to feed our immediate desires and base emotions.  That which we feed on becomes useless and outmoded once we have taken the small part that serves our greed.

Our culture is what we consume.  If we support the crass and low-brow, and ugly and inane, then that is what we become.  If we give our bodies bad food, then we become sick.  If we feed our hearts and souls with garbage, then our inner selves come to reflect it.

Try this experiment:  spend one month listening only to the great composers, looking at classical works of art, watching the highest quality films, and reading the best literature of our culture.  Go to the art museum or the live theater.  Eat fresh, unpackaged and raw or lightly cooked foods.  Just one month.  I'm willing to bet that at the end of that month, you will feel refreshed, renewed and rejuvenated.  Your outlook on life will change and your mind and heart will be elevated above the hustle and bustle of our modern lives.  You'll be amazed at what you can achieve with only a minor adjustment to your daily routhine.  Oh, and stay far away from TeeVee.  That is an evil and degrading medium...trust me on this one.

Take control of the culture you take into your soul.  It is the key to winning the war against the forces of darkness that are trying to destroy us.  Watch your language and guard your senses.  Focus on beauty and it will end the spell that has been cast over us.  Take back our culture and the elite powers will wither away and die.

Beauty, truth and love always win in the end.  When we take back our culture and create for the sake of creation again, we will have won without a fight.
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For those who stuck it out to the end, it's time for the Sunday Funnies!

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