Thoughts on our mission within a tumultuous world
As I approached writing this article I thought, “Why don’t I take a look at the dictionary definition of the word preserve?” Here are some examples that I found:
To keep safe from injury, harm, or destruction. To keep intact, or free from decay. To keep or save from decomposition, etc., etc.
But here’s my favorite:
To can, pickle, or similarly prepare for future use.
Because it alludes to carrying on a thought or concept as opposed to just keeping it safe. It has momentum, and thank you “pickle,” for a bit of necessary humor.
Traditionally, cultural heritage is central to “protecting” our sense of who we are. It gives us an irrefutable connection to the past – to certain social values, beliefs, customs, and traditions which allow us to identify with others like us, deepening our sense of unity, belonging and collective pride.
The term “cultural preservation” applies to tangible and intangible culture. Tangible culture comes up when discussing architecture, landscape, literature, art, and artifacts. Intangible culture refers to folklore, traditions, language, values, and knowledge. These terms generally refer to a variety of items and activities protecting and preserving culture. Yet, to different societies, culture may be defined by different things. To some it could simply mean defining certain behavioral patterns in a particular community, or the formal rules that guide them.
It gives the members of a specific group a feeling of connection and oneness. And yes, it’s critical to preserve certain cultures, histories, and heritage, as due to lack of awareness, many cultures and languages are disappearing. This is a huge loss for humanity as a community.
But, that being said, perhaps we could step back and look at a bigger picture.
What actually endures, and is not just recorded?
Many aspects of preservation safeguard tangible and intangible culture that no longer exists, or that have morphed and evolved into a different form. Yet, these concepts and accomplishments are historical building blocks to where we find ourselves now.
For thirty five years, the business of the Asian Legacy Library and our preservation partners has focused on preserving the precious and enduring wisdom traditions of the East. The timeless concepts represented by these traditions are as meaningful and relevant now, perhaps more so, than the almost three millennia in which these ideas were originally conceived.
These concepts are neither monocultural, nationalistic, or exclusive. They reflect in great depth and breadth a philosophical worldview based in logic and experience that, if employed, has the potential to positively impact all cultures, all nations, and the entire human population – now and far into the future.
As we consider the tremendous challenges facing our planet, ongoing struggles for social, racial, and environmental justice, and the pursuit of peace globally, perhaps we should begin to consider more closely the wisdom traditions that have endured the tumults of history.