By Fr. Roy Cimagala
WE can approach this quest from two points of view. One is that we need to enrich our culture by deepening the knowledge of our own culture and that of the others. We need to monitor developments of the different cultures around.
The other is to enrich culture itself, whatever and wherever it is, and regardless of whomever it belongs, by conforming it to an objective and universal law that governs the whole of mankind.
The first one involves the abiding effort to know more and more about our culture and that of the others. We cannot deny that in this regard, we tend to take things for granted.
We tend to be contented with what we have, what we know, what we are more familiar with at the moment. We hardly make any move to go beyond that level or exert any systematic effort to know more about our culture and that of the others—their history, their mentality, lifestyle, etc.
Thus, we tend to have a shallow and narrow-minded culture that becomes a hindrance in our effort to know more about ourselves and others.
Such level of culture does not facilitate communication, let alone, communion which is what is meant for us.
We see this problem spreading around. In spite of the new and powerful technologies of communication, we still are not communicating as we should. Any communication that is done is restricted to the immediate and subjective, if not, selfish needs and interests.
Beyond these, communication practically stops. It’s no wonder then that we continue to have serious misunderstanding among ourselves, and even conflicts and wars. Yes, we will always have some legitimate differences, but if handled well by knowing the cultures of different peoples, these differences need not undermine our common sense of unity and harmony.
As to the other point of view, that of conforming whatever culture there is to some objective and universal law, we can also say that there is hardly any development either. The main problem here is that people have their own idea of what is objective and universal.
In fact, some people think there is no such thing as an objective and universal law or standard that can be applied to all. They even say that what is objective and universal is that there is nothing objective and universal in our life. Everyone can have his own idea.
What may come out as the dominant culture is often simply a result of some majority consensus based on very transitory values like practicality and profitability. It’s more a matter of opinion and preferences and some conditionings, physical, social, ideological, etc.
We have to be more concerned about building up a good and healthy culture that at once may be peculiar to a certain group of people in the different levels and aspects of life, and yet open to the cultures of others. It has a certain specificity that would distinguish it from other cultures, but at the same time, it has a universal openness.
This will involve, I imagine, a continuing review and study of core beliefs among the different peoples, and ongoing dialogue among them.
The new technologies should be a big help for this purpose. In this regard, we should encourage the practice of reading and study that has to be done properly.
It should be a reading that would know how to read ‘between the lines’ in order to discern the assumptions and immediate implications of what are written. It should also be a reading that knows how to read ‘behind the lines’ so as to get to the philosophical and ideological foundations as well as the destination to which what are shown, described, promoted, etc., are heading.
Culture is a living thing that always needs to be worked on, purified and enriched. Its goal is to attain a certain level of wisdom that is shared by everyone in society. It’s a common effort of all people who have to contribute to its development in their own ways and possibilities
Obviously, some people have to lead that process. These can be the intellectuals and educators, and specially spiritual leaders who ought to articulate well the core beliefs of the people and to translate these beliefs into some shared practices and customs.
The homes, churches and schools are the basic centers of cultural formation and development. That is why they ought to be properly guided and motivated to their responsibilities in this regard well. Of course, the government also plays a very important role in this.
Let’s hope that we can get serious with our cultural formation and development!