If you’re like me, you probably think that the world is becoming too small of a place – that things are getting too “same-ish” and average wherever you go. I want the different parts of the world to get weird again.
But what made our cultures unique to begin with?
There are many factors that shape culture – religion, commerce, warfare, and other history of inter-human interaction. But the first and most powerful has always been the natural world.
The islands of the Pacific and the coastline of Canada have cultures of sailing and fishing for a reason. The Great Plains of the United States and the steppes of Mongolia have strong horsemanship traditions for a reason. My own home culture of the South Carolina sea islands has been shaped by the ocean and tidal creeks: a typical sea islander knows how to catch crabs, net shrimp, gather oysters, and reel in redfish.
Most of what a culture eventually becomes starts with the constraints which nature presents. Religion, commerce, and all the rest must (to some extent) follow what nature will allow in terms of sustenance, shelter, and travel to the inhabitants of a place.
Practices like religion or beliefs like political ideologies are secondary layers to culture, and unlike the hard particularity of a natural landscape, things like religion can be more universalized and standardized across places. But even now after hundreds of years of mixing cultures, the thing that remains most distinct about the current, living culture of the sea islands is our relationship with the water and the land.
When was the last time you considered your relationship to your environment? When was the last time you remembered you had one? Lose it, and you lose the main thing that might set your home apart. The world is trending toward sameness, but you can be a micro-trend in the opposite direction. Go and learn about how your ancestors fished, hunted, farmed, and otherwise worked with the ponds, deserts, glaciers, mountains, or swamps near you. Then try your hand at it.