Culture Night in Swords Library
CULTURE NIGHT in SWORDS LIBRARY Friday 16th September 2016 The original meaning of ‘culture’ had to do with the land. The word is connected etymologically with Latin cultura ‘a cultivating, agriculture’ and had the figurative sense of ‘to care’ ‘to honour’ from past participle stem of colere ‘to tend, guard; to till, cultivate’ (Online Etymology […]
Friday 16th September 2016
The original meaning of ‘culture’ had to do with the land. The word is connected etymologically with Latin cultura ‘a cultivating, agriculture’ and had the figurative sense of ‘to care’ ‘to honour’ from past participle stem of colere ‘to tend, guard; to till, cultivate’ (Online Etymology Dictionary).
The Oxford English Dictionary gives one definition as: ‘The action of refining or improving a person, the mind, faculties, etc., by education or training.’ The following examples of the use of ‘culture’ as a verb are worth quoting. Some of them sound odd to modern ears:
1677, J. Hanmer: ‘…Being.of a sharp and piercing judgment; which he cultured and improved by the study of the Liberal Arts, and other Humane Learning.’
1752, T. Pownall: ‘His Necessities require the working and culturing [of] many different and various Branches of the Community.’
1844, H. W. Herbert: ‘The powerful mind of the young soldier had been cultured, from his earliest youth, to skill in all those liberal arts.’
1958, R. C. Churchill: ‘Those noblemen who were cultured were cultured in many different fields.’
2002, Usenet newsgroup: ‘The wealthy and powerful in the US often sent their kids overseas to be cultured.’
To be ‘cultured in many different fields’ was the epitomy of the Renaissance man, the word ‘field’ ironically harking back to the land. With the advent of the Internet, access to a variety of knowledge—however much sifting is required—has widened the opportunity for this kind of ‘culturing’. But there’s general agreement that ‘culture’ is something we acquire; we don’t automatically inherit it.
James Fennimore Cooper begins The Last of the Mohicans with the sentence: ‘It was a feature peculiar to the colonial wars of north America that the toils and dangers of the wilderness were to be encountered before the adverse hosts could meet.’ Cormac McCarthy, in his novels, starkly and lyrically recreates the toils of that same wilderness, where living often meant simply staying alive, and where the wilderness was both inside and out. Situations of aggressive colonialism show that the cohesive force in all societies is their aggregate of behaviours, their ‘culture’. ‘Culture’ is posited on a certain level of security; it’s a kind of agriculture of the mind. This applies just as much to nomadic peoples. As the philosopher Gilles Deleuze pointed out, nomads are essentially still, because the world belongs to them as ‘smooth’ space. Their culture has to do with self-possession.
‘Culture’ is group living, a means of connection. ‘Culture’ is practice, language, history and art. Global communication has given us a much wider definition of what it is to belong, but for many people, it’s still primarily about the local. In Swords Library last year, we had a traditional Irish Culture Night, and you could feel connection in process. The interactive aspects of the music and dance had people connecting, not just with their community via shared memories and sounds, but with something in themselves—ancestry, genetics. A kind of coming home.
Culture also divides. Misunderstandings abound. Even if we are appreciative of cultures other than our own, it takes more than a leap of the imagination to truly connect with them. However, the planet is our primary home, so any night of cultural activity is, in real terms, Panculture Night. With this in mind, this year we’ve decided to host ‘The International Experience’, featuring two events from other countries.
At 6.30pm, dancers from the Wassa Wassa Collective will take adults and children alike leaping into African culture with workshops in African dance and song. Later, Olesya Zdorovetska will take us on a musical tour of the Ukraine, a country much in the news, but whose culture is probably little known in this part of the world.
We’ve been careful to offer separate workshops for adults and children, because adults, we know, also like to have fun and learn. You may come on your own, with a few friends, or, if you’re coming en famille, then there’s something for everyone.
The ‘cultured’ person has long ceased to be a privileged being. Culture is a practice, not a commodity; it is not a badge. Libraries have always been a vehicle for cultivating innate abilities, expanding horizons and preserving societies—for free. In this sense, it is intrinsically attuned to the spirit (the ‘culture’) of Culture Night, where you can travel widely, in yourself, in your community, in the world of art and information, without leaving your home ground.
Please book for the workshops: [email protected] / 018905582 / 018905894