Culture As a Sensory Experience

The autumn of the year is a special time for cultural fairs and festivals.   Cultural Crossroads urges you to look around your area, find those special events, and visit as many as possible.  While not everyone has the time or resources to travel the world, everyone can find a festival (usually free or with nominal admittance) where one can revel in the many cultures that make up our world.  Sample Greek food, watch German dances, listen to Irish music…it’s all there for us, because the United States enjoys the rich heritage of the world, through the mosaic of our immigrant populations.

Cultural  Crossroads maintains a calendar of multicultural/multifaith events in Greater Kansas City and, each month, issues an additional listing of special events and exhibits.  The variety of the multicultural offerings in this location is astounding – and it is likely the same wherever you live.  (In just September and October, our calendar lists local events showcasing international, Irish, Greek, Japanese, Native American, Jewish, Hispanic, German, and Turkish events, as well as celebrations of pioneer and historically-American culture.   A fun challenge: search the internet and find out how many and varied are the events within driving distance of your home – you will likely be amazed.)

A cursory look at those event listing reveals that cultures showcase uniqueness through two main attributes: food and music.  Both food and music are vibrant and colorful and indicative of both the unique nature of each culture as well as reflecting cross-cultural influences.

Food, of course, is vital to life and people of every race and culture prepare and enjoy food.  Music is just as vital to the soul as food is to the body and every culture also has a musical heritage.  We have written before about the similarities in food across cultures (see our blog post about breads at https://culturalcrossroadskc.wordpress.com/2017/09/14/bread-across-time-and-space/) and we have also written about similarities in music (see our blog post about bagpipes at https://culturalcrossroadskc.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/the-pipes-the-pipes-are-calling-all-over-the-world/).

It is easy to assume that these cross-cultural influences are the result of modern technology and ease of travel, but food and music and ideas have traveled among cultures and had strong cross-cultural influence for thousands of years.  No one culture has developed without influence of other cultures. It is this cross-cultural influence which forms the richness and depth of each culture and which binds each culture to the other, as cousins are bound through ties of families.

What if you don’t have the time to visit the festivals in your area?  It is still possible to enrich your life with the offerings of the world.  Check for concerts that focus on the music of many lands and the influence of that music on your culture and your life.   (As an example, in the past month, the Central Library hosted a performance by Gerald Trimble’s Trio Jambaroque, which you can view at https://www.facebook.com/kclibrary/videos/10155174652324412/.   You can also see and hear the whole ensemble at their next public concert on October 7; details on Facebook.  Don’t live in Kansas City?  Use a search engine like www.eventcrazy.com to find events in your area.)

What if you don’t have the time to go to concerts in your area?  You still have to eat.  Check out the restaurants in your town which offer international cuisines.  Restaurants and diners featuring Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Indian, Thai and other cultural cuisine abound in almost every town, large and small, throughout the country.   You will experience new taste sensations and likely have an opportunity to meet the owners and staff who are from that culture.  (In our travels, we have even found an Indian “take-out” counter at a truck stop in a small Oklahoma town.)

Cultural Crossroads friend Joseph Rosendo ends his Travelscope programs with his favorite quote from Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

Travel, in its simplest terms, is just opening ourselves to a variety of experiences and that variety is there for us, closer than we might think – reach out and experience it and your world will be richer!

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