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Saturday, 18 April 2015

Participating in your own culture is like meditating

We all hear it said from time to time that "all news is local" but do we ever really sit down to think about what that means? Because clearly it's not true. What the expression hides is an admission that we prefer to consume information that has been localised in some way, either in terms of the metaphors or cognates used to communicate it, or by searching out and finding local analogues that can help to explain what might otherwise be foreign in some essential way. Because different cultures are materially different. You cannot just pick up a news story, for example, written by an American writer for an American audience and "get" all of it in all its nuances and subtle meanings, without some sort of explanatory filter.

We feel comfortable within our own culture, whichever culture we come from. There is therefore a challenge for anyone who chooses to live inside another culture for an extended period of time - by relocating overseas, for example - because that person must constantly make adjustments in order to perfectly understand what is happening around them. Perfect understanding being necessary, of course, for survival.

For those who prefer to stay in their own culture and to venture out only for short periods at a time there is the reward of familiarity and comfort. But it's not something that can merely be couched in negative terms in this way. By participating in our own culture we actually function to perpetuate it. Without our participation, in fact, it could not exist, so native participation in the culture is an essential task in order to preserve the rich diversity of cultures that exist in the world. (Diversity being an absolute good.) I think though that we can go further than that, and say that participation in the native culture is a kind of meditation. It's something that we grok to in a multifaceted sense, as it's not something that can easily be broken down and explained easily in terms of constituent parts. It's a rich and complex interaction between an individual and the immersive culture within which they live.

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