Mirror for purity. Gold Fish for life. Vinegar for patience. Garlic for health. Sprouts for rebirth. Oleasters for love.
I love sitting by the Haft-Seen, surrounded by family, at the turn of another solar year on the first day of spring. I love listening to my dad pray for us with the Quran before him. I love the smell of our traditional foods wafting from the kitchen.
For that one day I am truly an Iranian; before I revert back to the Georgian Calendar, my confused state of semi-agnosticism and… no, I will keep the Persian cuisine, thank you very much.
Most of culture is patterns of learned social behaviour that in the context of the multi-cultural international community that I’ve grown up in loses its meaning. They are the flavours of life: an excuse to celebrate three ‘new year’s a year, sing two national anthems with pride, and pray with every faith. They are not so much identifiers as diversifiers. We follow them because our parents follow them and we love them because of the memories they awaken. But we don’t really identify ourselves by them anymore– at least I don’t.
A few days before New Year , we were on the road. My brother was sitting protectively in the front seat next to the stereo fighting off the intruding hands from the back. My mom was a few decibels short of outright screaming as I was trying to pinch my brother into compliance while my dad threatened to throw all of us out of the car. The battle was over music.
Here is a part of culture that, perhaps to my parents dismay, we don’t inherit but choose for ourselves. How many teenagers bond with each other over the bands they like or video games they play? How much of our lifestyle revolves around the hobbies we enjoy – and then again the genres of those hobbies?
If each life is composed of a series of stories with different settings, each person perceives the world differently depending on their experience of it; which means none of us truly live in quite the same world. It’s a lonely thought. I find meaning in life when I can look across the gulf and know that I’m not alone.
I think of the universe as a collection of stories through time and space that are lost when they go unwitnessed. Cultures are the mediums through which we share these stories. Art, Music, Literature, Movies: they are the bridges people build across the gulf, by empathy and imagination. Cultures are the windows through which we can look outside our own lives and see the rest of the universe.
We choose the image of the world we want to see by choosing the window. The more windows we open, the more detailed our view of the universe will be. And what we see adds to who we are.
We are living in an age that is increasingly emphasising on not defining fellow human beings by their race, gender or religion. But perhaps we should identify ourselves by what we understand, what we sympathise with, what we believe in and what we enjoy. And this makes each person a mix of a variety of cultures – a unique culture of their own.
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