The following was published on Febuary 25, 2018 on #thesideshow, FIVE:2:ONE Magazine’s online publication. Read it here.
The bed felt hot and I looked down to see single flames erupt between our horizontal bodies. I couldn’t be sure who had started it—we both held used matches, the tips blackened and still hot, smoldering. He wasn’t surprised, unwillingly accustomed, and I attempted to put it out, smother it with blanketed apologies and the weight of my body, but that only angered it more, growing and spreading as we stoked it with sharp insults and stored-up old emotional problems like newspaper for kindling.
As a population, humans have created various systems of classification by way of organizing that which is not easily understood into smaller, more digestible parts. By naming “something mysterious and out of control,” placing identities on people and things, and categorizing by those identities, humans have harnessed the ability to “gain mastery” over something (Luhrmann 45). While certain categorizations have evolved to be effective in organizing characteristics of people, the constructs created are not the most helpful in understanding the limitless ways of being. Maurice Leenhardt and Antonio Damasio have presented two different constructs for understanding, or classifying, a person. These constructs present defined boundaries that make it possible to understand the philosophical person as its own entity separate from other beings.
The notion of spirituality as being distinct from institutionalized religions is highlighted in both Talal Asad’s Reading a Modern Classic: W. C. Smith’s The Meaning and End of Religion and in Courtney Bender’s The New Metaphysicals, Spirituality and the American Religious Imagination. The distinction between religious life and spirituality represents a modern-day aversion to the institutional distortion of the individual’s uniquely transcendental experience. Further, the hope that spirituality should reside within the walls of a religious setting must be forgotten by those who desire a truly individual awakening without the coercive dogmas unnecessarily tied to religion’s doors. While spirituality and religion are thought to work in tandem, the clear divide, and yet unmistakable relationship, between the two presented by Asad and Bender epitomizes the underlying strife of both to seek that which can never fully be understood—the connection with the divine.
In the contemporary age, which is characterized by the phenomenon of globalization and an interconnected global-political economy, communication and interaction among previously disparate cultures and civilizations is becoming increasingly more common. The results of encounters between various modern cultures have the potential to create a world of bonded nations—fostered by positive trade relations and open borders—or a world divided by ideology. According to Samuel Huntington, his theory regarding “The Clash of Civilizations” argues that the fundamental source of conflict in this new age of globalization will primarily consist of ideological divisions of humankind, whereby cultural or religious distinctions between civilizations will encourage the greatest levels of violence and alienation, more so than any other distinction of humanity. Since the publication of Huntington’s theory, catastrophic events have been understood through this lens: the case of Charlie Hebdo, the events of September 11th, and the invasion of Iraq are seen as clashes between the civilizations of the West and Islam; wars in Croatia and Slovenia, as well as the crises in Ukraine constitute clashes between Orthodoxy civilizations and the West; and Boko Haram is seen as a clash between the civilizations of Islam and Africa.
In the contemporary world, characterized by an increasing interconnectedness among all human civilizations, it is vital to understand the phenomenon of globalization, what it means to live in a global culture, and what our roles are as transnational citizens of the world. As the abilities of our advancing human population increase to allow for a greater sense of connection between individual human civilizations—aided by technology, such as communication technologies (mass media and computerization) and transportation technologies—conflicts between the preservation of, and respect for, the particularities of individual cultures and the encroachment of outside values have become a significant part of our changing world. Though some theorists take opinionated stances encouraging the positive effects of a globalized world society—a hyperglobalist approach—and others take the opposing side, vilifying it for its detrimental effects on the uniqueness of human civilizations—a theorist of the cultural imperialism perspective would take this approach, potentially—the fact of the matter is that it is occurring and we are faced with the responsibility to understand what our role is in this new globalized society.
NEW ORLEANS – Mardi Gras is a buffet of colorful characters dancing and stumbling along old, beautiful streets, where the feeling of freedom is palpable, saturated in the dripping humidity of the New Orleans’ air.