Recently, in the metro Atlanta school in which I teach, we had a “heritage clothing” day as a part of homecoming week. Students were invited to wear clothing that identified heritage for them. Students showed up with an incredible feast of costumes: from Vietnam, India, Scotland, Germany, Russia, China, Taiwan, Korea, the Czech Republic, and various representations of Native America. Some students came wearing clothing that identified them with the culture of “soccer” or “America” or a company or university that his or her family was associated with.
Culture itself is for us a harvest that we often do not recognize. Every culture and sub-culture that we belong to comes with at least three dimensions to consider: the practices of the culture, the products of the culture, and the perspectives of the culture. Each invites us into a wealth of considerations. Buddhist teacher Seido Ray Ronci notes:
“Life is profound if you’re awake to see it. It’s one thing to draw from culture, it’s another thing to be drawn so deeply into the culture that your true nature disappears.” *
Where do you come from? Who are you? Where are you going? The cultures that inform our lives are a help, but we can also ask about their practices, their products, and their perspectives. When we do, we begin to see ourselves, in and apart from our cultures. On the one hand, we can draw from the wealth of stories and meanings that our cultures give to us. On the other hand, we are enriched and freed to make our decisions in this life, for this moment, that are meaningful to us alone. To have BOTH of those options is in itself a rich and enriching set of possibilities.
*Seido Ray Ronci, “The Examined Life”
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