A Common Thread
A Common Thread
A Common Thread
We as a society are surrounded by life, as we know it each day. Never stopping to look around and absorb what is going on around us. Our surroundings pass us by and we never take a glimpse at what those surroundings may hold. Our society presses forward without looking over their shoulder to see where we have been. Without acknowledging our present culture and studying our culture in the past, where are we going?
Studying Clifford Geertz, Patricia Limerick, John Wideman, and Ralph Waldo Emerson has made it easier for me to answer my own question. These four authors of varying expertise tied together a common thread called culture.
Clifford Geertz in his essay “Deep Play” brought us the world of cockfighting in Bali. In this essay he portrays the culture of our present American society through the use of the Balinese cockfight. Amazingly enough Geertz used what some would call a primitive culture to show us the aspects of our culture and the role these aspects play in our culture. Social structure, family, tradition, and money are just a few of the aspects brought out by Geertz that govern our present society. Geertz sums up our culture when he states,
“Their life, as they arrange it and perceive it, is less a
flow, a directional movement out of the past, through
the present, toward the future than an on-off pulsation
of meaning and vacuity, an arrhythmic alternation of
short periods when “something” (that is, something
significant) is happening and equally short ones where
“nothing” (that is, nothing much) is- between what they
themselves call “full” and “empty” times, or, in another
idiom, “junctures” and “holes” (387).
Patricia Limerick in her essay “Empire of Innocence” exposed many other aspects of our culture. One aspect in particular is tradition. Limerick showed us how tradition in our culture can rape other cultures of their rightful place in history. She enlightened us with the idea that history tends to portray our culture as a victim when that was not always the case. This idea is seen today in our culture because even today many try to portray themselves as a victim of society when they are not. In addition to tradition, Limerick exposed the use of Christianity and religion in a culture and how it was forced upon a culture that already had their beliefs.
To provide us with a different perspective on culture, John Wideman in his essay “Our Time,” writes about race issues, family, and our search for happiness. Wideman shows us how we as individuals attempt to change our culture in pursuit of happiness. He leads us down the path of his pursuit of happiness that only ends in gloom. This gloom being what he found when he attempted to forsake his family and culture. In addition, Wideman uses his essay to paint a picture of the racial tension of the past compared to the racial tension in today’s culture.
Ralph Waldo Emerson while delivering his presentation “The American Scholar” to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge on August 31, 1837 sums up our culture in a nutshell. Emerson epitomizes the burning desire behind all mankind then and now when he said,
“Men such as they are, very naturally seek money
or power; and power because it is as good as
money, -the “spoils,” so called, “of office.” And why
not? for they aspire to the highest, and this, in their
sleep-walking, they dream is highest. Wake them, and
they shall quit the false good and leap to the true, and
leave governments to clerks and desks. This revolution
is to be wrought by the gradual domestication of the idea
of Culture. The main enterprise of the world for splendor,
for extent, is the upbuilding of a man” (304).
In my opinion Emerson describes man as the soul of our culture.
Patricia Limerick and John Wideman’s essays are similar because both authors deal with race, stereotyping, family, the pursuit of happiness, and victimization. These two author’s essays contrast because Limerick describes how a cultures history can be misconstrued by using only