Saturday, October 1, 2022

Culture is symbolic: One important thing to know about culture.

A symbol is an object, word, or action representing another which is usually abstract and has no natural connection between them. 

Culture is symbolic. It means culture conveys indirect meaning. We should not interpret culture by observing objectively. When we do it, we tend to falsify culture. If we are aware that culture is symbolic, it helps to make sense of the culture and we do not feel awkward and criticize others' cultures too. 

The cultural symbol indicates how particular groups give meaning and perceive their world. It is used to convey the norms, values and beliefs of the culture. Culture is always related to historicity. So the symbol of culture helps to know what and how the members of the group share their feeling based on past experience. When we struggle for survival, we experience different experiences that form a different set of beliefs, which can be transferred to the next generation by symbols. 
Gurung death ritual: feeding the departed soul through sheep. 

For example, on the third day of the death ritual, Gurungs(indigenous people of Nepal) symbolize the sheep as a departed soul. So when a sheep eats delicious food, Gurungs feel it is eaten by the departed soul, not by sheep. So the symbol is very important for culture. Without the symbol, culture cannot be formed. It can express the ideology and standards of human life. We have both visible and invisible worlds. Symbole is more concerned about the invisible world. Or it makes the invisible world visible. 

Since symbols may not have a natural connection, it is not necessary to have a meaningful connection. So a symbol can represent many different things. It may vary from culture to culture. For example, Hindus symbolize the cow as a god but it is not the same for other religions. 

The symbol is very malleable and adaptable as compared with biological evolution since it is a very slow process which might take millions of years. But we can change the symbol within a very short time. It is making culture very adaptable. Culture is making humans very adaptable. 

Since animals cannot use symbols, their capability for adaptation is very limited. Humans can make and use symbols but animals lack them. Humans evolved with a universal capacity to classify experiences in the course of life and encode them which ultimately enhances effective communication. 

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