Thursday, February 11, 2010

Grandma Ida, beauty and cultural learning

Listening to an anthropologist, I learned that some humans learn in their society to think of gods when they get sick.  I learned to think of physicians and medicines.  Maybe one god or another is angry with me when I have a tummy ache or a sore back.  Maybe I need to appease that god to stop the pain.  But that is not what I learned as a kid and it is not what comes to mind first when I am feeling some kind of sick.

Not long ago, Lynn and I were comparing notes on interior design and decor.  We felt we like this and not that.  Some art and some colors please and make us feel that we are in the presence of beauty.  Then, I thought of pictures of Grandma Ida's little house and pictures I have seen of the inside.  I imagined asking Ida if she preferred a given design scheme or what she had, which was very simple and maybe severe, with little or no art objects in sight except for photos of relatives and family.  

Grandma Ida lived on a small farm in northern Michigan.  As a widow, she raised 7 boys there on very little.  I could imagine her feeling uncomfortable with some of the interior design ideas that we like.  She might feel she was surrounded by ugly colors and bothersome design layouts, maybe about the very arrangements that we felt most happy and proud of.

Far more comes to us and our habits from our experience and the times we grew up in than we can easily know.  What is right, true, sacred, beautiful, inspiring may seem fundamental or obvious or set in stone when actually, they are relative, temporary and personal.

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