Home » Life » Cultural relativism or why a lost friend is not always something bad

Cultural relativism or why a lost friend is not always something bad


Camino de Santiago, 2012

Camino de Santiago, 2012

How would you describe the meaning of the word “color” to a blind kid who has never seen colors? How would you describe him the meaning of “yellow, green, red, blue?”

Few months ago I saw a video about this. The teacher in one school in Spain asked pupils to write an essay about colors and flowers. Among her students, there was one guy, who was blind. This task was especial difficult for him, as he didn’t know the concepts of such daily words as “color”, “yellow”…

Since then I am trying to imagine, how it would be the life without the concepts of the stuff which surrounds us. That would be a mess, if we didn’t know that the table is a table, a thing, on which we put the things, or eat. Also, it would be a mess, if our concepts were different from other persons. For example, table* for me could be a thing where I sleep and for other person – some delicious fruit.

I don’t know if I’m explaining myself. I want to say, that there is a common agreement between people how to call somethings, and in this way we avoid misunderstandings. When we talk about a table with someone from Europe or USA, both sides know that they are talking about a thing, which is used to put the plates on, or computer, or any other stuff. It could be made of wood, glass, it could have four legs, or just one, but it will still be a table.

The difficulties would start, if we talked about a table with someone from Africa. Let’s assume, they don’t have the concept of a table. Do you think, they would understand what you are talking about? I guess, no. Maybe they would have that thing which we call “table”, but in their environment it could be called by different word.

Ok, I hope, it’s more or less clear, what I wanted to say. I wanted to say, that the concepts, the meanings of some words are given, are constructs of our daily life and that the “universal” meaning of it is very relative. The concept exists if the object exists. I guess so.

So, now, let’s move forward. The fact, that a table is a table, is neutral. It doesn’t mean that it is good, or bad, it’s just a statement – table. Object. The meaning, such as good, bad, useful, useless is given by ourselves. If we think, that table is bad, we don’t give too much attention to it, we don’t care about it a lot. If we think, it’s good, we create some kind of conection, we take care of a table, we save, protect it and don’t want to lose.

Here it’s when the problems come. Imagine, somebody breaks our table… no way!!! We would be angry on that person and sad for our poor table. It would be amazingly hard to say goodbye to it. It would take a lot of time for us to recover after the loss of the table.

If we would change the word “table” to other, for example, “friendship”, we would get the same. When we hear this word, we give it a meaning – positive, good thing, one of the best things in the life, etc., etc. So it’s kind of hard to get rid of losing the friendship. If we only understood and felt, that everything is in our mind, and that we are the creators of concepts, it would be easier to live. There would be less pain and more wisdom in this world.

The other thing, important to understand, is the fact of how temporal the things are. And it is also a fact. We give it negative meaning – oh no, everything is changing, there is nothing stable in this life!!! Blah, blah, blah. So, this fact and the negative connotation we give to it, drives us crazy and makes us unhappy. We attach ourselves to some things we think are eternal, and later when we lose them, we feel bad, unhappy and angry. Once we accept the dynamic of life as an unavoidable fact, which has no good or bad meaning, we would start to enjoy the life. The life here and now.

 

* it’s just an example, it could be used any other word or feeling.

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