The meaning of a word often changes over time. The word 'culture' was first used to for the act of tending to crops or animals.
This original meaning changed to a metaphorical meaning of tending to the development of the human soul and then to the education of the human mind. In the 19th century the English poet Matthew Arnold said culture was "the best of what has been thought and said in the world." Anarchy was seen as the opposite of culture.
Culture became something that could be particular to a group of people and their development. A Nation could be defined by its culture. Linking culture to Nationhood lead in turn to problems of use and the politicizing of the word.
Out of this grew a hostility to the connotations of 'high' and 'low' culture. Culture came to mean superior. This divisive sense has recently lost some of its edge through the use of sub-cultures, thus allowing a more democratic use of this highly charged word. There is now a broader definition of culture, as popular or pop culture, that encompasses a very wide area of activities.
The culture of a Nation is somehow embedded within the individuals that make up that nation. We have no choice of the culture we are brought up in.
The American phrase 'culture-vulture' is useful to describe the way modern culture is often consumed. There is a certain modern need to consume vast quantities of cultural experiences quickly. Culture is now part of consumerism.
Our true cultural experiences are, I think, rooted in the culture we grew up in and that cultural outlook stays with us.
How can we, as artists, express or redefine our own culture for the times we find ourselves living in?
Tom McPherson's blog on art and creativity.
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