Culture Definitions

Help keep track of Alaskan culture?

We invite you to join us in this long-term commitment to improve culture, both popular culture and the art world promoted by the cultural elite: artists, directors and producers (which we examine in this issue). On our website, humanitynews.net, you will find a discussion forum with background information about major cultural venues in Anchorage and Alaska, including the full interviews conducted for this issue. We hope that this can be a space to respond to – and to hold accountable – what occurs in these places in the future. Help us keep track of what lifts, and what lowers! –editors, Alaska Humanity News

Judging Art

The value of art is in something beyond itself – something that we can know and aspire to. It is quite possible that works of art can injure or shatter a person’s spirit (and this is especially obvious is the world we inhabit today). That is why it is essential that we create a framework that could make sense of our culture. One of our goals in this issue of Alaska Humanity News is to make a first attempt at doing so.

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Much art does utilize conflict, but almost all artists defend the use of violence by suggesting that the intent is in pointing to something higher. This is believable only if this is accomplished in an open and active manner, focusing and elaborating on the good rather than on the harmful.
One of the reasons any kind of hierarchy of cultural value is abhorred by thoughtful people is that defenders of this idea are so often bigoted and ideological. We don’t want to be this way, either.

High level

Expresses these transcendent
qualities: the beauty, truth, good, love, and the sacred.
Nourishes these personal qualities: Purity, depth, inwardness, awareness, holiness, integrity, honesty, faith, compassion, commitment, care, autonomy.
Effect: Works of art of this kind recognize your whole self, and call you to your higher nature. They also oppose superficiality, degradation, and manipulation.

Mediocre level

The magnification of the profane, superficial, and material. Life is entertainment, and art is distraction from what is transcendent and eternal. It is ignorant, profane, and ideological.
Personal qualities: Greed, narcissism, self-interest, hard-heartedness, isolation, and sanctimony.
Effect: Loss of the capacity to perceive realities outside of oneself: Insensitivity.

Low level

Appeals to these realities: the ugly, the false, evil, and hatred.
Magnifies these personal qualities: bigotry, destructiveness, and sadism.
Effect: Destruction of the capacity to see what is good: Degradation and nihilism.

Definitions

We can’t expect our references about transcendent realities to make sense unless we explain the words we are using. It is for this reason that the editors of Alaska Humanity News have made a first attempt at defining we mean and are aspiring to. (Writers are differentiated by varying fonts).

Culture is the collective expression within a society of the True, the Good, the Beautiful and the Noble. It is individuals, groups, and communities collaborating at many levels in an endeavor to manifest, make known, demonstrate, celebrate and exalt their understanding of these permanent things.

Eleanor Hadden

Culture is what cultivates the character in a population that spontaneously produces the society we inhabit. The highest vision of culture is one that wakes people up to their higher nature, and provides tools and opportunities to express this in tangible ways in everyday life.

Beauty is the pure expression of Transcendent Reality. A thing is beautiful only insofar as it is able to clearly manifest the essence of that reality. To behold Beauty is to catch a glimpse of the Good, the True, and the Noble.

External beauty is an object that attracts, but it can attract only because a transcendent value is imputed to it (usually unconsciously). Inner beauty is correspondence of a subject to what is good, true, and sacred.
Perception of beauty is graduated, ranging from superficial to deep. Deeper perception of beauty – appreciation of the inner, as well as the outer qualities – comprehends more of the subject.

The Sacred is that which confers meaning and purpose. It is the foundation on which value rests. It is the Transcendent Essence of things. It is the source of intuitions of Ultimate Reality and Meaning.

Sacred: Purpose, significance, meaning – wonder, reverence, holiness – the deepest and most direct connection to reality.
Perception of the sacred occurs through a subtle sense that humans have but which must be protected and cultivated, and this is the function of culture. It requires an integrated self: one’s whole life being in the service of the most beautiful that we can conceive. These personal qualities include humility and commitment, and result in purity – the purity that is required to sense the sacred.

The good is beauty, love, truth, and the sacred, and action to promote these. It is also peace, justice, prosperity, and joy, which are all results of the former.
The good is also action or service to bring these qualities into reality. It protects them from harm, from desecration, and from apathy. It involves a personal commitment, based in the truth of one’s identity, to use all of one’s resources to bring that visionary world into reality.

The Good and the True are of the same essence. They exist together. Where one is, so is the other. The Good is everything that expresses the Divine Nature. Insofar as a thing expresses Ultimate Reality it is Good, and the degree of Goodness is directly proportional to the clarity or intensity of the expression.

The True is like the Good. Truth is an articulation or expression of Ultimate Reality. Truth is a manifestation of the Divine Nature. Magnitude of Truth does not change its Ultimate Essence. All Truth has its origins in Transcendent Reality.

Eleanor Hadden

Truth is all of the dimensions of reality, including those which our senses are sometimes too dull to perceive. Understanding is the capacity for perceiving the full range of truth. To see deeply requires recognition of what limits perception: self-centeredness, ideology, and dogma. And it requires the personal qualities of perseverance, honesty, and love.
Everything is susceptible to being comprehended, including what is false or destructive. But it is the transcendent realities – beauty, love, the good, and the sacred, as well as truth – which reveal what these actually are.

The Noble is the expression of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in human life, community and society. Life is Noble insofar as it manifests these qualities.

Love

Love is possible when self-seeking ceases, when we are able to see into other’s hearts, and recognize what is most important and most beautiful there – all capacities that are not normally easy to develop, and which require a culture of care that would help develop them.
Love binds together our individual fates, setting them into service of the dimensions of reality.

Transcendence is the quality of Ultimate Reality that is beyond the ephemeral thoughts of the mind or the fleeting feelings of the soul and the changing resolve of the will. It is a permanent quality of Ultimate Reality.

Degradation

“The essence of all vulgarity lies in want of sensation. Simple and innocent vulgarity is merely an untrained and undeveloped bluntness of body and mind; but in true inbred vulgarity, there is a dreadful callousness, which, in extremity, becomes capable of every sort of bestial habit and crime, without fear, without pleasure, without horror, and without pity. It is in the blunt hand and the dead heart, in the diseased habit, in the hardened conscience, that men become vulgar; they are for ever vulgar, precisely in proportion as they are incapable of sympathy, -of quick understanding.” John Ruskin