Does Human Culture Matter in the Modern World?

If we look at the world today it can be noted that on one side there is a continuous preparation going on a defensive or offensive nuclear missiles war and on the other side, there is a talk going on for the reduction of the nuclear weapons among the nations. On one side the world is under the grip of terrorism and on the other side there are exuberant exchanges of cultural activities. There is anxiety, excitement and thrill everywhere! On weighing each and every news of the world it is clear the world is certainly at the verge of a Nuclear War. All these things can be quite interesting and thrilling to watch in a Bond movie! But in reality nobody would like to see horrible event taking place in the world. Indeed there is lurking suspicion and fear everywhere. Is it the outcome of the civilization of the modern world? It seems that human faith itself is in crisis now. How can humanity be saved from the utter destruction of war? How can human spirit be regained?

Human Nature

It is clear to say that in every human being there is a continual warfare between the higher and the lower natures which we may call as the divine nature and the animal nature of man. If he tilts to the divine side of his mind he functions like an angel. If he tilts to the animal side of his mind, he acts like devil. Hence both heaven and hell are in his mind only. Human nature will be neither animal like nor divine like but non-aligned in thoughts, words and deeds. But to maintain this nonalignment of human nature and improve further, human spirit, which dwells on humane activities, has to be kept alive and energetic forever. That is, human values have to be cherished and sustained. That is called humanisation of man.

Materialism vs Humanism

East gives importance to spiritual values. West gives too much importance to material values. Material progress has led man towards rivalry, hatred, competition, destruction and domination. But spiritual progress gives man satisfaction, contention, peace, bliss, selflessness and freedom. Human development does not come out of material progress but out of all round human progress i.e. emotional, intellectual and spiritual. Therefore for the survival and sustenance of human race on the Earth human values, which thrive on peace, cooperation, good will, love, loyalty and friendship have to be given more importance than anything else and have to be maintained at any cost.

Human Activities

The myriad human activities express the infinite faculties, variety of interests, aptitudes, immense desires of human nature presenting precious details of all the ways of life of human beings on various walks of life under one broad subject called human culture. The variety of human interests manifests itself under various branches of human activities in different fields such as arts, science, technology, industries, agriculture, commerce, literature, medicine, religion, philosophy, politics, music and drama. Human action shows the dynamism or liveliness of human spirit.

Passionate and Indifferent Works

For some the work they do is monotonous and distasteful and they do it inefficiently and indifferently like unwilling slaves. And for some the work they do is a great opportunity they cannot miss and so they perform it with great passion. It is all the purpose, the motivation and the aim behind the job that makes them perform their works with such attitudes. So, there should be a good motivation and a high aim to do a job well to the satisfaction of all concerned. But all cannot get satisfying jobs to do so and there good motivation and high aim become irrelevant and ineffective. That is why passionate and indifferent working attitudes are quite prevalent in all human activities.

To curtail such attitudes human narrow mindedness should be changed. Mainly due to this narrow mindedness only there are problems, chaos, wars and destructions in the world. Human narrow mindedness is born out of selfishness and egoistic or self centred nature of human beings. The materialization of selfish ideas gives great pleasure which is not a lasting one. But the failure to do so, on the other hand, brings dissatisfaction, grief, sorrow and misery to the egoists who, as a result indulge in inhuman and horrible activities making the world a hell.

Non-aligned Attitude, Principle of Human Culture

The obligations of human beings may be unpleasant and monotonous to the doers, but the hard labor or the difficult job done well at least minimize or reduce the miseries later on in life. Indeed selfishness and egoism are very difficult to be avoided by anyone. So, the best attitude with which one can do one's duty is neither indifference nor passion but non-alignment, because the most important things in human life are happiness and peace which can be obtained if one does one's duty with non-aligned attitude, which is the central principle of human culture.

Man and Machine in the West

In the West, virtually everything is functioning under the direction of machines. There is competition between machine and man. Human life has almost become a mechanical life. Life is going fast there. There is no time for anyone to stand and stare at the beauty of the world, Nature or the Universe and appreciate them. Nightmare is a common thing there. To calm down the fast working mind, they use tranquilizers and have become addict to narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances like cocaine, marijuana, hashish, LSD, ganja, etc. There is no peace of mind, happiness and love for them, but only a lot of artificial amusements and lustful activities encouraging mongrel life there. This is very much true in USA. In Europe their cultural heritage should not be abandoned as a result of the fast technological developments there. In this respect France and Britain are exceptionally well off. But others have to be careful before it is too late.

Economic pursuits, cause for all problems in the East

In the East the countries that had great civilization and rich culture are economically backward now in the world. The relics of the past civilization and culture are still existing in some important places there. All the States in the East were socialistic countries. Their predominant economic pursuits had sapped them of the free access to all the other aspects of human developments. Some had chosen separate roads to achieve socialistic ideals though existing under the influence of Russian communistic socialism and in the list Yugoslavia and Romania were far ahead.

Some years ago there occurred Cultural Revolution too in Russia and China. In China there is no individual liberty and human rights like the intellectual freedom to express own ideas are not allowed to its people. When this is so it is certainly doubtful to believe in the occurrence of real human cultural fructification there. Therefore the most essential change needed there now is first the democratization of its political system. And then only human culture is really practicable there. Whether it is West or East human culture is a must for the appreciation and the cherishing of human values in the world.

Culture as harmonious Human Development

Tension built up by the Cold War between the two Super Powers had resulted into wide spread militarization in many countries of the world. The espionage activities of those powers had enlarged their networks in all parts of the world in such a way that no two neighboring countries could coexist peacefully without any suspicion. Further terrorism, political upheavals and plane hijackings have become a routine thing. After four decades of arms built up and other activities America and Russia had started direct talks on elimination of Nuclear arsenals in order to sign a treaty on disarmament and destruction of Nuclear Weapons and promotion of peace and friendship between them after realising fully well that there would be no victory for anyone side except total holocaust of the whole world in the event of a possible Nuclear War being started by either of them in the future. Therefore the realization that peace and prosperity are more important for human existence than military domination over others has finally dawned on them.

Material Aids and Drug Culture

Indeed the usual human activities are very essential for ordinary human survival on the Earth despite the sophisticated developments have increased people's inevitable dependence on the material aid or scientific gadgets in the developed countries on a very large scale for their day-to-day life. But the people in the non-aligned or neutral countries by means of simple living and high thinking standards can achieve great things in the world. Now for them too the routine life has become insipid, meaningless, dull and dry due to lack of strength of the body, mind and spirit. As a result like in the Western countries people are very much affected by the drug culture and so, rules and regulations are getting tightened in order to curb the drug trafficking activities which are the harbinger of psychological diseases and other new diseases like AIDS, etc. in this part of the world too. So, what is the remedy for all these ills is the thing we all must think about immediately.

Ambition Necessary

In fact the usual human activities make human life quite insignificant, meaningless and worthless. To make human life worth living everyone should have some ambition to achieve in the world as ambition is a great driving force which gives strength to the body, mind and spirit of man. Not the ambition to amass wealth and dominate the world to be had which will lead one to complete failure, but ambition to develop one's abilities in the fields one is best at and achieve something good and great to be had.

Human culture, the Means to Achieve Life Goals

In this juncture it is worth remembering the saying of Swami Vivekananda that 'whatever work you do, do it as perfectly as you can and that is the best way to achieve happiness and peace of mind in this world.' This is the path of human culture to be followed as the best remedy to overcome the present malaise of human society in the world. In reality the purpose of all human activities is the achievement of satisfaction in life, which can be the final goal of human life. The only reliably best means is human culture to achieve that end. To arrive at such an end the other goals to be achieved through this means are knowledge, love, perfection, freedom, happiness and peace.

Human Culture for Perfection

According to the view of E.M. Forster in his essay, Does Culture Matter? human culture provides 'the power to understand and enjoy' all the best things of life and so, without 'tradition and culture the chance of connecting work and play and creating a life which is all of a piece' is impossible.

Another expert of culture, Matthew Arnold in his book, Culture and Anarchy says that culture for an individual lies in the love for and the study of perfection which is a harmonious expansion of all the powers which make the beauty and the worth of human nature and the pursuit of perfection is the pursuit of 'Sweetness and Light, the reason and the Will of God' and the Hellenistic knowledge of the Greek Classical beauty for the achievement of excellence in human nature and the Hebraic idea of Jewish action of fulfilling the Will of God. He also says that human spirit behind all the great works of literature, art, science and religion aims at harmonious human perfection leading towards the development of all sides of humanity.

Poet Robert Browning whose concern with the evolution of individual soul in his poems like Pauline, Paracelsus, Sordella and Asolando has worked out the idea of synthesis of knowledge and love leading to the perfection of man. Therefore it is clear to say that only when such a human perfection is achieved through human culture, real freedom can be obtained and as a result of that happiness, peace and satisfaction can be achieved in life.

Hence human culture simply means that it is the love for, the study of and the pursuit of all round human perfection and it can be completely interpreted that human culture is thinking about or knowing, speaking or expressing about and doing the best things of human endeavor in many fields like Literature, Arts, Science, Politics, Religion and Philosophy of the past relevant to the present and 'enjoying ourselves those unique and priceless things' and spreading such living truths to the intimates, friends and fellow men we love in order to make those precious things live in the future too.

Love and Knowledge for Human Perfection ' Human Culture

Power, position and possession are all not the permanent things for anyone in the world. The permanent things everyone can rely on are Love and Knowledge of Truth which are as beautiful as the best things in Nature and Art. Only these two things can permanently keep human beings in happiness and peace, save them from difficult and dangerous situations in life and certainly lead them towards perfection. Human perfection is what human culture has been helping to achieve so long and has to help so on and on though many men may come and go in this world. With the knowledge of truth and the inspiration of love many philosophers, poets and prophets have done immortal things and have left the world, but the things they have achieved are still showing light to the helpless and miserable to regain human faith and human spirit and guiding them to achieve human perfection.

Goodness, Love, Wisdom and Perfection

Lord Buddha has said to the world that wisdom and love can overcome desire, which is the root cause for all the difficulties, problems, miseries, ignorance and so on in the world and liberate men from the recurring cycles of birth and death forever to absolute bliss, which is the final goal of human life. Christ has said that 'be ye therefore perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.' Gandhi has said that if the end should be good, first the means should be good which can be Truth and Non-violence only and nothing else. All these thought provoking realistic and practical philosophies simply say that by means of human culture everyone can achieve human perfection and can live like a free and happy divine being even on the Earth.

Cultured Person, a Yogi

Lord Krishna in Bhagavad-Gita Gita says that to achieve full liberty one should become a Yogi and follow the path of Dharma suitable to one's nature to achieve perfection emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. This gives the clue to visualize how a man of culture or a cultured person can be like. Yes, a cultured person would be thorough in knowledge, non-aligned in thought, pure in love, non-attached in heart and effective, efficient and excellent in action. Further like a Yogi a cultured person would be calm at difficult, dangerous and trying situations, unruffled before adversaries and criticisms from various quarters and balanced both in sorrow and happiness as such a person is non-attached to anything in this world and is non-aligned to all the controversial matters concerning human problems in the society. In fact this is the way a cultured person can live and achieve good and great things for the benefit of the present and the future generations.    


More by :  T. A. Ramesh

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