Sunday, December 2, 2012

What are the causes for cultural differences?—Remnants of Babel

“That is why its name was called Babel, because there Jehovah had confused the language of all the earth, and Jehovah had scattered them from there over all the surface of the earth.”—Genesis 11:9
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This is one of the most puzzling of questions. Some of you might have thought of it as a brain twister, just a labyrinth of infinite contemplation with no definite answers. To a certain extent you are right in thinking so. The reason to say this will follow and we will learn it, perhaps, at the end of this passage.

In significant books such as the Holy Bible, there are spots where history, science, philosophy, religion, spirituality, and psychology all merge to create a single event. One such moment is when Jehovah God said, “Look! They are one people and there is one language for them all, and this is what they start to do.” [Genesis 11:6] God said it looking at how the descendants of Noah, who settled in the plain valley in the land of Shinar, were able to construct a city and a high tower towards the heaven, using all their expertise in vain, for pride. He went on saying, “Why, now there is nothing that they may have in mind to do that will be unattainable for them. 7 Come now! Let us go down and there confuse their language that they may not listen to one another’s language.” [Genesis 11:6-7]

Until then, the Bible says, the descendants of Noah had the same language and they all lived within one complacent fortress of a unified linguistic and interpersonal communication system. It is this complacency God had apparently broken and as a result, according to the Bible, the many languages in the world were born.  
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What significance languages have in deciding the culture? Language closely mirrors cultural contours. It is through language every culture finds its voice and expression and preservation of its values and spread its ethos. The libraries, science, technology, art, spoken or written records of the roots of their pasts, thoughts and dreams indicate that language is the bread on which the cream of culture rests. In a secular point of view, there may not be any advantage in pointing out the direct correlation between the origin of different languages and the event in Babel. However, irrespective of the Divine intervention in the process of the split up of languages, one thing is decisive and curious; the splitting up of languages indeed resulted in the broadening of human knowledge and civilization. The conflict of two unknown languages produces results as pleasant as dictionaries and as gruesome as nuclear bombs. In both cases, it is furthering the horizons of what man knows and wants to possess. In the conflict of languages, both good and evil co-exist; both boon and blessing are delivered.  
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Are there any other elements other than language that defines one culture unique or helped to shape the destiny of one culture antagonistic with another? Yes, there are, and it is evidently present in the causes that resulted in earth shaking battles and cold wars—it is ‘thought’. From revolutionary movements to civil wars, there has been a constant impetus that becomes the projectile for all cultural and political changes, and it is thought. Thoughts lead human beings in search of self fulfillment and prosperity, which is evident from the travels and immigration ever since the origin of Homo sapiens. The immigration into different geographical areas once led the common creed of humans to split and develop or evolve, according to Darwin and others, into different groups that are antithetical from one another in colour, language, customs and thinking.

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Then what are the elements that control thoughts? Even though thoughts are beyond the material world in their existence, they require the world of physical presence to survive. Thoughts can influence the world of form with their lack of any physical form. In this mutually influential system of existence, the physical world too has its crucial role to play in developing and influencing thoughts.

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Here is an example from a simple culinary difference. ‘Roti’ is a North Indian food, made of wheat. It’s commonly made in any North Indian household. But in the southern part of India, for example in a state like Kerala, roti is rarely made at home among people of Kerala origin. One can buy it in some restaurants as a North Indian food, though. The common food in Kerala is boiled rice and curries, which may include vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Still there are overlapping influences, such as Chapatti. People usually cook chapatti at their homes, which is a North Indian food, but much light for the stomach. In the extremely humid atmosphere of Kerala, roti would not be recommended as a viable food item. This indicates the significance of geography in deciding the traits of a specific culture. 

The question ‘what are the causes for cultural differences?’ is indeed a brain twister. But there can be answers that may found through investigation into science and ancient texts. An answer with a definitive nature, however, seems inappropriate for such a question with multidimensional significance. Therefore, it’s up to you to conclude this passage and its dialogue.
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1 comment:

sarath said...

The thought is good, but where are you reaching at?