Tag Archives: culture

The Need for Culture’s Knowledge

I think that a large part of the world has forgotten the importance of culture.  Everyone seems to be living a life as if they are the only ones to have ever come across the many issues we face in life.

When I was teaching at a private four year college I was shocked by the lack of understanding of the importance of the classics and the humanities.  And it wasn’t just the fault of the students: the faculty was equally at fault, if not more so.

I understand that art, music, poetry, philosophy, and other such subjects don’t necessarily impress a corporate recruiter – such courses are not as relevant as courses in finance, accounting, engineering, coding, or graphics.  But, the classics are important, vitally important.

Philosophy teaches you how to think and reason so that you can determine if something new to you makes sense.  The myths give you stories about great heroes that you can try to emulate to some extent.  And the arts, all the arts, give you a glimpse into a part of humanity that you might not have seen before.

The great philosophers, the great artists, the great religious leaders all answer in their own ways the one great question that each of us asks: “What is the meaning of life?” or “What is my purpose, where am I going?”

Not only do they give us the answers, but they show us how to get there.  All you have to do is just spend some time with them and trust in their judgement.

It is much easier to go through life with those you can trust than to try and do it on your own.

 

Accumulated Knowledge

One thing that I would like to mention is something that Csikszentmihalyi, one of our modern thinkers from the world of psychology, mentions in his book on flow.  He states that much knowledge has accumulated in our culture from past generations.  To ignore this hard won information and try to reach happiness by our own means is not only futile by arrogant.  He goes on the say that this knowledge that has accumulated comes to us from the worlds of fine art, philosophy, the myths, psychology, and religion.

I agree with him.  Those successful at reaching the end of the road to happiness are the ones who have extracted the above information and have put to good use the wisdom of past generations.  Why else do we have art museums, symphonic halls, ballet theaters, and poetry anthologies?  Why does the field of positive psychology exist?  Why bother creating and listening to the myths?  Why are there so many books on the Greek philosophers?

The answers to all of these questions is the same – to help us find our road to happiness!

I admit that most of this accumulated knowledge does not come easy to us.  But why should it?  If happiness is that easy to find, then we would not need these great thinkers and artists!  But happiness is hard to attain.  By Maslow’s estimation, less than 1% of us actually come close to finding it.

The wisdom found in our culture can help increase those odds.  We have done something that no one else has done:  we have curated all this accumulated knowledge that is out there and have distilled it down to an easily digestible meal.   Only the most relevant information is used to help you on your road to happiness.

We all share the same motivations to find happiness in our lives.  Don’t try to do it on your own – it is too difficult and too time consuming.  Let us help!

Culture 101

While this website focuses on finding the road to happiness, one of the side benefits is the introduction to culture, or the arts, or the humanities.

If you missed art appreciation or music appreciation in school, or didn’t find the courses relevant to you, here is another chance at tackling the great works of art.

This time we add a purpose to the art – finding happiness.  Rather than studying art for art’s sake, which I admit is very difficult and often boring, we have added a new slant to the world of art or culture – its insights into how each of us can find the road to happiness.  This approach is very unique.  I have never seen art presented through this type of lens.

In addition, only 78 works of art can be found in our ebook and in this website.  We think that this is all that is needed.  Obviously, there are thousands of artistic masterpieces; however, it would take too long to present all of them.

Finally, these 78 works of art have withstood the test of time and remain in our culture.  These 78 works are ones that each of us should recognize and appreciate if we are to be “cultured” with an understanding of current society aw well as those past societies that have contributed to our current time.

So, if you are looking for an introduction to the study of culture, or would like to understand the importance of culture to today’s world, or how culture can help you find your way through life, or perhaps all three, then stay with us.  If nothing else, our book gives you a list of the great masterpieces of art, and even interprets them for you.  It ties them together with one thread – the interpretation of what drives us to do what we do and how we can get on the right road and stay on it long enough to reach what each of us is looking for.

 

What is Culture?

One of the side benefits of my book is the collection of great masterpieces in art, poetry, music, and dance/ballet.  The art and poetry are found in the book and the music and ballet performances are found in this website.

The reason that these pieces of art were selected is that they translate the ideas displayed in each of the six galleries of my book into human expressions of life.  Each work of art is critical to understanding the road to happiness.

If you believe, as I do, that Aristotle was correct in stating that the meaning or aim of life is to find happiness, then these great works of art are necessary to give each of us the inspiration  and guidance to move forward towards happiness.

As Tolstoy said about the reason for art, “To evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced and having evoked it in oneself then by means of movements, lines, colours, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others experience the same feeling – this is the activity of art.”

“Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously by means of certain external signs, hands on to others feelings he has lived through, and that others are infected by these feelings and also experience them.”

“Art … is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.”

I believe that if you put the ideas of Aristotle together with those of Tolstoy, what you get is the following: the purpose of art is to pass onto others the human feelings and experiences necessary to achieve happiness as witnessed by those who have found happiness, and that these expressions of those human feelings are indispensable not only for each of us in finding the meaning of life but also for the flourishing of society, which would not be possible without those among finding the meaning of life.

I believe that culture is the avenue through which the arts attempt to answer the meaning of life.  It is this avenue that makes the road to happiness easier to find and to travel, once it is found.

More to come!

What does Culture have to do with Happiness?

In 1869, Matthew Arnold, a respected English author, poet, and literary critic, wrote a very influential book, Culture and Anarchy.  This book was one of the first devoted to the understanding of culture (humanities) and its influence among society.  The book is still important in today’s world.

Prior to Arnold’s work, culture had the meaning of connoisseurship or appreciation of the fine arts.  But Arnold did not agree with that definition calling it “vanity and arrogance,” a “badge” of class distinction.

Arnold redefined culture as “a pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know, on all matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said in the world …”  By the word perfection he meant our growth to the highest form of humanity.

Arnold went on to say, that this pursuit of perfection was “… the general harmonious expansion of those gifts of thought and feeling, which make the particular dignity, wealth, and happiness of human nature.”  More importantly, he mentioned that the aim of culture is to encourage “a harmonious perfection, developing all sides of humanity … a general perfection, developing all parts of society.”  In essence, the goal of culture was not just to bring about happiness in the individual, it was also to allow the society to flourish.

One final quote from Arnold, “There is a view in which all the love of our neighbor, the impulses towards action, help, and beneficence, the desire for removing human error, clearing human confusion, and diminishing human misery, the noble aspiration to leave the world better and happier than we found it,—motives eminently such as are called social,—come in as part of the grounds of culture, and the main and pre-eminent part.”

It is for all these reasons mentioned above that the fine arts (“arts”) are included with the ideas of great thinkers (“prose’) – the culture as defined by Arnold – into one exposition so that all can find their way to achieving happiness and, simultaneously, contribute to the flourishing of society.