Sunday, February 12, 2017

Question for the Community: What are your habits, weekly or daily, to touch base with classic culture?


One message of today's social media is that recency is an indicator of value.  Something that was produced yesterday is more important that something that was produced a week ago.  And Silicon Valley continues to spend vast sums on researching and creating addictive experiences to fight for our attention, down to understanding reward schedules that would make a slot machine manufacturer jealous. Billions (and billions) are at stake.

At the same time, we all have greater access to the cultural accomplishments of the people who came before us.

Memories and even faith suggest that time spent experiencing cultural artifacts, at a personal level if possible, make us better.

Some of this takes the form of "big trips" to other countries, special museum exhibits, or the fund raiser at some new cultural venue.
All Original Photographs from Archives

Fund Raisers Can Open Up New Venues - Peabody

But there are also weekly and daily habits that can span months, or years, or lifetimes.
Some people add classics to a cycle of reading that includes modern page-tuners and non-fiction.

Sunday morning habits on the Maine coast around Robert J. Lurtsema...

...can transfer to playlists.

Some prioritize television shows that gently (or not so gently) remind viewers of great works.

It works well when interests can span media.  One can read about boat building first or second hand, then visit vessels to understand their architecture, and see them in action.
Mystic Seaport

An interest in antique oils can span from enjoying small pieces on the house wall many times a day...

...to weekly visits to the library...
Camden Library

...to monthly return visits to world class examples.
Yale Center for British Art - Long Gallery

Given that, what are your favorite habits, preferably daily or weekly, to access the works of the people who came before us?

41 comments:

  1. I'd be surprised if The Community didn't respond to your question in unison: "Why, I come HERE to 'touch base with classic culture'"!

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    1. Hurray for this reply! Great One, HH.

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    2. Hear, Hear! Before I even finished reading the question, my mind raced to SWNE. Thank you for the daily experience, Muffy, and keep up the good work!

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  2. Yes, I DO come to this blog to touch base with classic culture. But I am also taking a course on Henry David Thoreau (It's the 200-year anniversary of his birth) at Emory University in a program called OLLI (for people 50 and over). I belong to a classic literature book club and we read and discuss a classic every month. And I love to watch all the old British dramas on a regular basis (especially those written during the Golden Age of crime fiction). Oh, and I visit New England once a year, if possible.

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    1. Your comment has perk my interest in a classic literature book club again. My local library has several different book clubs, but none of them are classic literature. Perhaps it's time for me to organize one. It seems a little intimidating, but why not? I like the idea of asking professors from the local colleges/universities to be guest speakers. It would be nice to have other people to discuss these monumental literary giants with. P.S. I'd like to recommend England's Dorothy L. Sayers, Lord Peter Wimsey's mystery series.

      Millicent Aspinet

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    2. Excellent! We keep our group relatively small and ask the person who recommends the book for the month to research the author plus the times and setting of the book, etc., and lead the discussion. It is very rewarding. Love your idea of having guest speakers. Will mention that at our February meeting. Thanks! (I love Lord Peter!)

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  3. Replenish the soul/spirit. Load up the abalone bowl with white sage- smudge, prayers/songs, honor the past and present,give thanks,feed the baskets, dust the grinding stones...you know things that make a happy house a home. When able hit the Pow Wow circuit.
    (Yes I am a Preppy Native.)

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  4. CMS in Eastern MassFebruary 12, 2017 at 1:10 PM

    Classical WCRB on whenever I'm in the car. The beauty and connection to the past provides for a calm and centering transition to and from work. And the more traffic, the more music! :)

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    1. Classical WETA, all day every day, in the car and at my desk.

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  5. I try to go to museums when I am near one. I recently went to the whaling museum in Nantucket. That was wonderful. Sad for today's standard with the whales, but still a beautiful exhibit. I read classic books, currently trying to get through the Count of Monte Cristo, but it's written in Old English so it's a bit rough. Next is Jane Eyre. I listen to classic or soulful music through Pandora when at work or home, and I visit this blog faithfully, which I love. I also live in New England, so I get to Boston when I can, and I enjoy, on a daily basis, all of the architecture, barns, and history throughout this part of the country.

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    1. The Count of Monte Cristo is long but well worth the read!

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    2. Thank you for that encouragement. I was getting disheartened, but I will keep reading.

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  6. Oh yeah, I watch PBS predominantly and I enjoy nature everyday right outside my windows.

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  7. Yes, this blog. Also classical music, books, TV that's not reality. Husband and I are partial to BBC. Museums, both local and when traveling. Sometimes just walking while observing and thinking. Pretty much things that are not trendy or of the moment.

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  8. Listening to classical and opera on CBC radio when home on the weekends, dressing up to attend the symphony, making use of the city and university library to borrow books, and making use of the internet to indulge my curiosity with historical figures, events and innovations.

    We're also fortunate to have a number inherited items of art and furniture and other items in our house to interact with on a daily basis - my grandmother's hand-wind clock and copper umbrella stand, framed silk postcards from WWI, my great uncle's monocular, old mixing bowls and kitchen utensils, etc.

    My Australian wife has exposed me to many BBC adaptations of classic novels as well, which we watch in regular intervals.

    I suppose it's a lot of listening and reading, and making an effort to incorporate the old into our home environment.

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  9. For me, #1 is reading fiction. I read some new stuff but mostly visit and re-visit Dickens, Austen, Davies, Cheever, Powell. My wife and I also travel a good deal, and while museums and monuments are always on the list, what I like best is just the experience of being there, of fitting myself into the rhythms of the local scene. As you know, I do love the British dramas where history and classical culture are never far away. And in the way I dress, I like to think I am maintaining a sort of generational continuity. :-)

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  10. Nature, family, knowledge of how ancestors lived their lives. Touchstones of the past all around keep me grounded in the version of "reality" I grew up with. In keeping that flame I have found it necessary to absent myself from today's "popular" culture pretty much across the board, so I like many of you I indulge in good books, British dramas, and time outside with my animals. I am coming to realize that our traditional American culture is a precious thing, by no means to be taken for granted.

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  11. In addition to things already listed, I would add the traditional Sunday service at my Episcopal Church.

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  12. Pretty much all I need do is talk to my wife. There's basic Virginia ancestor worship, the Episcopal church with two priests in the family, an occasional visit to Europe whenever a family member is living there and a wretched excess of British television.

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  13. After being told at a local bookstore that they didn't sell bookmarks because quality vendors were difficult to find, I said to myself, "How hard can it be to make a bookmark?" Therefore, my new classical hobby is recycling vintage books that are beyond repair, by taking the spine and making it into a bookmark. Found this idea on Pinterest (old bookmarks).

    Like everyone else here, I've been in love w/ classic culture practically since birth. On our family's 1,000 acre farm (compliments of my great-grandparents), I first noticed nature and animals. Next I admired the Greatest Generation w/ all their wisdom and knowledge. And finally the eloquent translation of the King James version of the Bible preached at our little pioneer church in the wild-wood in the 1950's.

    But there was a driving force in my DNA that made me thirst for more. I had to have a classical home library, which now includes Greek Mythology, ancient writers, to early 20th century authors. I'm currently reading The Works of Philo by Yonge, and and a biography on the Mitford Sisters. Have read all Shakespeare's plays, as well as viewing several at college theater, but am by no means an expert on the old Bard.

    Symphonies, art or history museums, Golden-Era films (British & American), lifetime reading program, and traditional Methodist church services and the old hymns - all add to being the best one can be. Also watching people bid on my artwork at charity fundraisers is a bit of a feather in one's cap.

    Volunteering is another contribution to classic culture. I volunteered at a rural library for a decade where I met wonderful people, was introduced to authors I hadn't read before, and most precious was watching future generations learn the love of reading.

    Since beginning my research in family genealogy, have discovered ancestors deep in my DNA that most certainly contributed to my love of classical culture. They are my sturdy New England Puritan generational great-grandparents who arrived in British Colonial America during the Great Migration of the 17th century. In 21st century America, am proud to say I stand on the solid rock of my Puritan ancestors.

    P.S. I sincerely appreciate Salt Water New England being a great contributor to my classic culture.

    Cordially, Millicent Aspinet




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    1. I use vintage postcards and assorted old ephemera as bookmarks.

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  14. Definitely this blog! And classical music on the radio, BBC programs, re-reading the classics on my bookshelves (was an English major so there are a lot), visits to art and historical museums with the children, and visiting historical sites. Mostly, on a daily basis, I am surrounded by Old-order Amish living their lives the same way we all did back in the mid 1800s. By observing and talking with them, I have been reminded of what is really essential to live in contrast to what we "English" believe we must have in order to be comfortable.

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  15. I may be off mark here, but this is what I thought of... In 1934 my great-great grandparents were throwing out an ordinary, room-size oriental rug. My grandmother, a recent bride, said that she would happily take the rug to the apartment in NYC. There she used it, and when my grandparents moved out to Connecticut in 1948 my grandmother put it in the dining room. There it has sat for an additional almost seventy years. We rotate it every fifteen years or so to try to get the wear even. I walk through that room a couple times a day, and When I see the wear marks, I think of five, perhaps six, generations of friends and family who have literally left their mark...... and then I see in action the seventh generation of wear being created by my children adding to the hundred plus interesting years of family history. I make the rug sound tattered, but in actual fact it is in great condition eighty-four extra years of life later. Educated or not, rich or poor, one way everyone can access the classics is by talking to your grandparent's generation before they are gone. Get the stories and the history. Because I did, I am reminded daily of the stories and my family that is no longer here. Then when you go to the museums and you travel having heard family history it makes it all the more personal and alive.

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  16. Every Sunday I drive to the stable, listening to "Thistle and Shamrock" on the way, spend an hour riding and some more time just being with the horse, then come home and have a pint.

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  17. Have recently purchased Harvard Classics five feet of great books. I believe I learned about them on this blog. Will read them all and will leave to my children and grandchildren along with the silver, china and my great, grandmother's cut glass bowl. Thank you.

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  18. I read this question this morning and began to ponder my activities, realizing that I don't spend as much time in museums as I ought - thank you for the prompt. As much as I love all things old and of classic origin, surround myself with antiques and artifacts, collect old books, dishes, and textiles, and watch British films and programming, there is one activity that stands above all others. It began with my great grandfather who had a degree in pianoforte and conducted the orchestra in our church for 23 years. He had a rule, only classical music in his house of 5 children! Subsequently, my grandmother, who sang in the choir, passed along her love for hymns and opera to me. Over the years I discovered the hymns are what harken me back to those sweet memories of my youth. What awakens my soul is when I listen to the King's Choir singing the old hymns. Making them even more meaningful is understanding the circumstances under which they were written. This is often my Sunday afternoon respite by the fire when the days grow short.

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  19. In the age of instant gratification, I think think there's a lost feeling of enjoyment in today's world. In response to the original question, I think one great way to get in touch with classic culture is to take a step back and find enjoyment and beauty in everyday things, no mater how simple they might be. When I was a boy, my father would often say, "let's take the long way there" which simply meant the scenic route, literally. I like the idea of time being less important than enjoying yourself on the way to whatever destination lays ahead. Another way I get in touch with "classic culture" is by pursuing interests that savor a lifelong pursuit, and not instant success. It's good to be humbled. Whether i'm hunting grouse or pheasant, fishing, horseback riding, or taking a morning swim in the ocean, I always know that there is more to learn. Lastly, I really try to make an effort to say "Hello" or make small take with neighbors and people I see in town. It helps me feel connected to a culture that is rapidly disappearing.

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  20. I have the radio on constantly, in the house and the car. However, only Radio 3 or 4, (2 if I'm feeling like I want to touch base with "current" music. Which really means a back catalogue of 70's-early 90s music - much more preferable to my tastes). Classic FM is also played in the home and in the car on very long journeys.

    So far as other cultural leisure I like to visit National Trust properties and read for pleasure about the great dynastic families, royals and titled aristocracy of English history. Television is only for watching pre-recorded documentaries, period dramas (the occasional modern drama if critically acclaimed).

    On a Monday and Friday we watch University Challenge and Mastermind. This is one of our favourite family times in the week as we keep score on our answers, challenging ourselves to do even better this week compared to last.

    I am also partial to an antiques store - but real antiques. Not bric a brac.

    Most important than any of my suggestion is quiet conversation with older generations. I find it really odd that most ladies of my generation (I am in my thirties) only choose to socialise with women of the same age. Most of my friends are ten, twenty if not thirty years older than me. Their wisdom, intellect, guidance and counsel are worth more to me than gold.

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  21. Looking over this great post and the comments, I do feel guilt that I haven't read a classic book all winter. This is supposed to be my season for that. However, in about 4 mos. of ancestry work , I have been happy to discover loads of information online that bring life to the times my relatives were living in. Also, like many others, I'm enjoying Sunday evenings on PBS.

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  22. Will have to echo others- one way to get in touch with classical culture is through this blog and the comments. Also, thanks for reminding me to slow it down and breathe. Sometimes, I forget.

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  23. I try to blend the technology with classics. At work, I am not in IT, yet have four computer screens at my desk. For someone who is not a digital native, this is somewhat ridiculous and an acquired taste. It is also infuriating yet necessary for the job. Therefore, I’ve tried to incorporate classic culture into technology. For example, this month for screen savers I have a series of Japanese woodblock prints. Recently, it was Coromandel screens. These flash by in eloquent joy. Some of my seemingly expanding number of millennial colleagues had never heard of either, yet one just told me that he was intrigued enough to search out a book on Coromandel screens. I also bought a good pair of headphones and while my eyes are looking at mostly vapid information, on Pandora I am listening to Mozart, Satie, Debussy or something from the BBC live or archives. It is not perfect, but at least it is something.

    Lexy

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  24. Phonograph records
    Organ Music
    E Power Biggs

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    1. E Power Biggs played at my church when I was a teenager, a concert I will never forget. Bach would have approved. MGC

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  25. I'm part of a circle of amateur musicians who get together to play chamber music weekly followed by wine, nibblets and good conversation. It's one of the highlights of the week.

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  26. Reading books (on paper), travel, cultural events, museums. Also involvement in my overseas DAR chapter (we have members from their 20s though around 80, from different walks of life) where I am around other women who are interested in American history, community, etc. And when around friends and family I like to focus on them and not be around screens (for example, one friend said how much she notices and appreciates that when we meet up for coffee that I keep my phone in my bag, instead of having it out, constantly checking every time it beeps like so many people do these days.)

    Living in Europe where many things are closed on Sundays sometimes has its drawbacks and inconveniences (sometimes it would be really handy to, say, grocery shop on a Sunday) but in a way it does sort of gift you with chunks of time for hobbies, cultural pursuits, etc.

    -EM

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  27. Our definition of classic is anything that we love for a lifetime. Doesn't have to be old, or venerated. We get outside (seaside, forest or mountain) or inside (a barn, a museum, a workshop)and see, listen, learn and read about things that interest us. A classic boat to us (a 1969 Magnum Marauder, for example) might be a newfangled go-fast boat to someone else ;)

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  28. Excellent suggestions among the comments here. I would also suggest attending events that are likely to become extinct or extremely rare in the years to come: opera, ballet, etc. The patrons are ageing and the likelihood that the next generation will carry the mantle is remote. Travel to the 'old world' is also recommended, especially areas with ancient ruins. We are visiting Spain this summer and along with seeing classic Gothic cathedrals, we will also be touring Roman ruins. Finally, stop in one Sunday for the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) at a Catholic church. Most major cities have at least one church that offers it - you don't have to be Catholic to appreciate the beauty of a service that goes back almost 2,000 years.

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  29. As someone who enjoys sewing, I always feel that when I make something, I am helping keep a nearly lost art alive.

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  30. I get my cultural fix all day with classic radio (WHYY-FM) and at night on television (PBS) and of course this blog which I love. My main cultural/classic feed is from books, all kinds of books. Technology allows me to order from B&N online (new) or from the Market sellers (used) and stockpile the classics. I am at the tail end of Wuthering Heights and I plan to start a Dickens or an Austen next. I did not have any appreciation for culture or history when I was younger, but I'm grateful that I have the time and the opportunity to do so now.

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  31. I have a few classics on the shelf that I have not read. Which of these three would you start with?

    1) The Brothers Karamazov
    2) Far from the Madding Crowd
    3) Vol. 1 of In Search of Lost Time

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