The Long Cave of Culture
Don't forget to read the Introduction, Part I , and Part II before this chapter of the Journey.
Our boat slowly sails towards a cliff that seems impossible to climb. There is no access to the top, where the path continues. You can see a vast dark cave that opens like a crack on the cliff in front of you. The lake water seeps into the crevasses and slightly begins to disappear in the dark. The boat stops at the entrance of the cave. The Elf-Guide smiles at you as an invitation to go ashore. The Tribe still surrounds you, so you feel protected.
You look around for more information, but the Elf-Guide starts to row away from the cave as her voice resonates.
"This is called The Long Cave Of Culture, and it crosses the mountain like a tunnel. You will have to go through it in order to find our next stop. As you walk, you will see some ancient pictures on the walls. These pictures represent different symbols related to ideas and beliefs. There is only one obstacle: the cave will never end unless you can all see the same. Easy, right? Just look at the pictures and speak with the Tribe. Can you all agree on what you see? See you on the other side."
You look around. The ones with the wooden staff are healing wounds and drying off cloth and shoes. The horns are full of brew to make you feel your strength again. The diamond swords and shields become the light that allows you to move forward and see through the darkness. Every stone of personality shines, hanging on your necks. It reminds you of your uniqueness, and it allows you to recognize the essence of those around you. You feel the Tribe. The old books float now in front of their owners. Letters begin to appear on their empty pages: "Culture gives you symbols, it gives you meaning. It is the invisible structure of your thoughts and beliefs. It is your language, traditions, and values. Culture is the tool kit you use to face the world around you. But remember: there are as many tool kits as nations, countries, tribes, and communities, and they all coexist and influence us somehow".
The pictures on the walls of the cave look ancient, like scribbles from a prehistoric artist. You start to explain the drawings to each other. Nobody seems to understand a word. You are speaking in your mother tongue, and so is the rest of the Tribe. The cave appears to become longer and longer. You begin to get closer to the people that speak the same language. You all get in different groups based on language and place of birth. You all stare at each other. The cave gets darker.
All of a sudden, the stones of personality begin to shine. You now remember those who helped you, the ones that held your hand before. You have your own code as a tribe. You have your own language in common, and you all share different traits that get you closer. Your culture is your tool kit of behavior, but you still have your own nature.
The pictures start to make questions pop into your mind:
How are emotions seen in your culture? Do you expect people to communicate directly, or have you learned that you must keep emotions to yourself so you can be gentle and polite or, on the other hand, strong and competitive?
Do you think power and hierarchy are part of the common good and worthy of your respect, or do you feel the right to fight for equality and freedom?
How important are traditions? Do you worship and celebrate your ancestors and nation's memories?
What is the level of individualism? Do you expect a high level of interdependence among your community members, or does your culture value autonomy and independence?
You can leave your answers and thoughts at the Tavern (THU social media channels) or write directly to [email protected].
At some point, you realize that you do not feel comfortable with every single aspect of your culture's behavior expectations. But you feel peaceful now. You close your eyes and accept what made you who you are, and the lessons you got from your family for better and worse. You smile and quietly celebrate that this is where you come from, but you can see beyond. You see your companions, each one of them with different backgrounds and personalities. What do you all have in common?
You open your eyes and look around again. Everyone understood. You all smile and feel a new sense of proximity. In front of you, an empty space appears on the walls of the Cave. You look down. Paints and brushes on the ground. You all feel the energy to start painting together. This was the language you needed to understand each other. This is your culture and you are all in this together.
A big light comes through the other end of the Cave. You all walk together towards the exit. The She-Elf-Dark-Guide awaits you outside. You all look at her.
“But tell us. What is the power we’ve learnt?”
The Elf smiles.
“The power to see what unites you”.
She walks and points at the horizon once again: The Forest Clearing of Context.