mind and culture

Meaning of Culture

The term Culture, which derives from the Latin colere, to cultivate , is often associated with many meanings relating to broader or more specific concepts.

She is a cultured person, she has a profound culture on the subject, she behaves this way because it is part of her culture.

Today’s invitation to reflection concerns culture understood as a set of models of being or behavior that are useful for living in a certain social context.

Genetic inheritance?

It has often been wondered if culture is a heritage that is genetically inherited like eye or hair color, but scientific evidence seems to deny it. The genetic heritage of each of us, a sort of archive where it is written how our mind – body system must work, is almost the same for everyone.

Come l’Homo sapiens

It is also the same that our ancestor Homo sapiens sapiens already had about 50,000 years ago. Nevertheless, around the planet there are more or less different ways of being and acting in the many groups and in the different locations, from the neighborhood next to ours to the neighboring city or in any other part of the world.

We are incomplete

This is because in our DNA we do have the instructions to make the body work, but we must acquire all the others necessary to act and interact in harmony with the people who belong to the social group in which we live.

So it is like saying that, at birth, we are incomplete, we fail to know how to be and how to behave on every occasion. From that moment on, throughout our entire life, we integrate our being with models and instructions that we learn from the context in which we live.

It is what distinguishes us from other animals which interact with the surrounding environment based on what instinct suggests to them and which therefore makes them act automatically according to the stimuli they receive.

Instructions for Use

Culture, therefore understood as a set of instructions acquired over time, affects and manifests itself through our behavior in every area of ​​life.

For example, it induces us to nourish ourselves with certain foods rather than others, it makes us choose to have a wife instead of two or more and it makes us believe in one God or in multiple divinities.

How culture is learned

And all this is learned in the course of life in a way:

  • vertical, that is, through the teaching of the people who take care of our education and, above all,
  • transversal , or rather as a result of modeling , that is the observation and imitation of the behavior of the people who are part of our social group. Starting with the peer group , the few people we hang out with every day, family, friends, schoolmates or co-workers. But also all the others that are more or less distant physically or even virtually, that is, those with which we come in contact through the internet.

Culture and diversity

The complex learning of information closely linked to the context in which we live is what makes us different in the way of being, thinking and acting from those who live in another context.

And this diversity is all the greater the more we are geographically distant.

And here the problems begin.

Ethnocentric thinking

The question arises from the fact, as often happens, that each one considers his own culture better than that of other groups or populations, promoting a so-called ethnocentric thought that places his own ethnicity , his own group, and the others at the center.

Ethnicity, a term that has replaced race , has historically pushed some populations convinced of their superiority to persecute others considered inferior and, for this reason, forced to undergo all sorts of slavery, violence and sometimes even extermination.

Analogous phenomena have occurred, and unfortunately still continue, also due to cultural and religious differences . The belief that their own culture or religion is better than the others has prompted peoples to impose it on other peoples, considering this policy a generous act of civilization.

Multi-ethnic societies

We now live in a multi-ethnic society such as that of many parts of the West, where precisely people whose origins come from many parts of the world live.

This shows that people, despite having for example a different color of the skin and different facial features, when they are born, grow up and live in a social environment different from that of the land of origin, in fact they absorb and implement ways of being and to act very close to those of the people they associate with. This happens despite the fact that they are obviously influenced by the patterns acquired in the family.

Studies of Anthropology

The study of the similarities and differences between the peoples who inhabit the planet is what Anthropology deals with, whose term indicates precisely the study, logos – discourse , on man – anthropos .

It is a science that draws its origins from the epoch in which colonialism began which required the study and analysis of colonized populations or to be colonized.

Cultural Anthropology

Anthropology did not stop at research on physical diversity, but has extended to every area of ​​human life for each of which it operates in a specific way. In particular, the cultural one represents one of the most important branches of study of the discipline.

Different is beautiful

The beauty of culture lies precisely in its diversity. The encounter between different cultures, made easier and more frequent today by the Internet , can naturally and spontaneously enrich, generating continuous cultural changes.

This in fact allows, among other things, to broaden one ‘s point of view , to change its angle so as to allow you to better understand others and enter into empathy with them more easily . The latter is implicitly an essential condition for interacting, communicating with others and obtaining results that satisfy one’s own and others’ needs.

Like a naive anthropologist

It is therefore essential to assume an attitude of curiosity towards other cultures, perhaps behaving like a naive anthropologist. It means doing what an anthropologist does, but in a completely natural and spontaneous way:

  • grasping the differences ,
  • comparing them with our cultural models and eventually
  • integrate them with the models of others.

How to expand your cultural models

First of all, therefore, it is necessary to have the right attitude with which to observe, listen and perceive the ways in which people are different from us and ask yourself what could be the motivations of origin.

For example, remove your point of view by placing yourself in front of a physical globe.

It can also work virtual, like that of Google map and mentally shift your attention from where you live to a larger area or to the whole world. Observe the continents, imagine that you are right there, among blond and blue-eyed people, with dark skin or almond-shaped eyes. Think about what it might be like to live there, in a place completely unknown to you.

Yes, travel

However, one of the most beautiful and complete ways to do it is to travel around the world, which, moreover, represents one of the most common desires in the drawer for many people. Visiting other places, and even better it would be to live them for longer periods , allows you to immerse yourself completely in a different cultural context.

It is right there, in the environment, that you can grasp the real motivations that have culturally formed a group, a community or a people.

Create new habits

This happens more easily if you stay there for more than 21 – 30 days , which is the time it takes your mind to create new habits . During this time, live as if it were your city, go shopping in the shops, meet the locals, learn at least a few words of their language and get advice on their favorite dishes.

Write your travel journal

Just as a true anthropologist does, you can write your own travel diary by noting and describing more or less in detail the things that intrigue you, of which you want to keep memory and maybe share them when you return home with relatives and friends.

Virtual travel

If you cannot physically travel, however, you can do it virtually thanks to the great opportunities that the internet offers you to get to know places and people that are difficult to reach personally.

Whether you do it physically or virtually pay particular attention to food, clothing, ways of behaving.

Once you have acquired the information it is necessary to enrich your culture:

  • understand why people are what they are and do what they do
  • accept the fact that they are different from you for reasons and needs related to the context
  • experience something different from your cultural habits such as tasting new foods, wearing different clothes, using a different language
  • integrate into your cultural models what you liked and that you find useful and pleasant to replicate.

Cook their dishes

The simplest and tastiest thing you can do is, once back home, try to cook the dishes you tasted during your stay abroad and maybe integrate them permanently into your usual diet.

For example, I have included cheviche from Central America, couscous with vegetables from North Africa, sashimi  from Japan and other dishes that make my mouth water when I think about it.

Cultural Psychology

Cultural Psychology, a specific sector of the science of mind, studies precisely the mental implications related to the interaction of people with what they learn from cultural models and how mind and culture integrate and complement each other.

In summary, as I often invite you through the blog articles, if you want to start and continue your path of personal growth it is necessary to expose yourself to the inevitable diversities that life offers you and, among these, those deriving from belonging to different cultures.

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