Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wednesday with Words: Culture is Parent and Child

Now, here’s something interesting about culture: It’s both parent and child. As we’ve just seen, culture is the child of the community, because it’s born from and formed by the people of the community. On the other hand, it’s also the parent of the people of the community, because it nurtures and forms them. In other words, it educates them, and education, according to Pope John Paul II, is the “primary and essential task” of culture.
 The One Thing is Three:  How the Holy Trinity Explains Everything 

The JPII quote is from Towards a Pastoral Approach to Culture. 
More in context from that document:

«The primary and essential task of culture in general»,(18) education which, since the times of early Christianity, has been one of the most remarkable areas of the Church's pastoral activity, at the religious and cultural levels as well as on the personal and social plain, is now more complex and crucial than ever. It is primarily the responsibility of families, but calls for the help of society as a whole. Tomorrow's world depends on today's education, and education cannot be seen merely as a transmission of knowledge. It forms people and prepares them for their participation in social life by fostering their psychological, intellectual, cultural, moral and spiritual maturity. 

The note (18) takes you to a talk by John Paul II to UNESCO on culture.   It was given in 1980.    It gets a little philosophically heavy but it is interesting.  

The essential meaning of culture consists, according to the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, in the fact that it is a characteristic of human life as such. Man lives a really human life thanks to culture. Human life is culture in this sense too that, through it, man is distinguished and differentiated from everything that exists elsewhere in the visible world: man cannot do without culture.
Culture is specific way of man's “existing and “being”. Man always lives according to a culture which is specifically his, and which, in its turn, creates among men a tie which is also specifically theirs, determining the inter-human and social character of human existence.

. Man who, in the visible world, is the only ontic subject of culture , is also its only object and its term. Culture is that through which man as man, becomes more man, “is” more, has more access to “being”. The fundamental distinction between what man is and what he has, between being and having, has its foundation there too. Culture is always in an essential and necessary relationship to what man is, whereas its relationship to what he has, to his “having”, is not secondary, but entirely relative. All man's “having” is important for culture, is a factor creative of culture, only to the extent to which man, through his “having”, can at the same time “be” more fully as a man, become more fully a man in all the dimensions of his existence, in everything that characterizes his humanity. 
Ontic is a word I keep finding in Heidegger.  

"Ontic" describes what is there, as opposed to the nature or properties of that being.
Heidegger uses the term ontic, often in contrast to the term ontological, when he gives descriptive characteristics of a particular thing and the "plain facts" of its existence. What is ontic is what makes something what it is.
That doesn't help me too much, but by saying man is the only ontic subject as well as the only object I think John Paul  is saying something like "culture is child and parent" -- that is, that man is the author but also a character, immersed in the milieu/ world of culture as well as forming it. 

Anyway, all of this reminded me of the points being made in Desiring the Kingdom, because  culture and liturgy are intrinsically connected, a point made by Josef Pieper.  

Pieper shows us that culture and liturgy are fused in a society's public worship.   It can be said of all civilizations that what is ultimately valued, what is worshiped, is embodied in the products of the culture. 


  1. I wonder where that leaves us as a culture. I like that Pieper said this first.

    1. Yes -- Yikes!
      But fortunately families are primary cultures.
      And I do like some of the things about the wider culture.


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