A friend from Dallas who visited recently said she loved Glen Rose because it had so much “culture.”
I took that statement at face value and didn’t ask her to explain, thinking that she meant art, history, scenery, restaurants and other elements that make up that feeling we also call “ambience” or “atmosphere.”
Then I picked up a copy of the newspaper from a small town an hour or so away and noticed a headline. A woman in that town wanted to start a facility to bring “culture”— and thereby attract tourists -- there.
But what is culture?
Texas A&M University, which certainly boasts its own distinct culture, offers several definitions on its Web site. The one I like best is this:
“Culture refers to the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving.”
Whoa. That’s a lot of stuff to stuff into one word, isn’t it?
That last line about generations of people striving certainly fits this geographic area. The story of Charles and Juana Barnard and other early settlers are part of Glen Rose’s culture.
Robert Summers’ sculpture of them on the courthouse square speaks a lot about their character and that striving. Their past reflects on the present and becomes a symbol of human resilience for all of us.
I see one of the other Aggie definitions of culture is “symbolic communication,” so art and the creation of artifacts come into play there. Culture is, in its broadest sense, a way of life and an attitude about living.
Some people, though, use it in much shallower terms. If you have an education and have been to some “cultured” places, you might exude culture to some folks. If you make a lot of money, drive expensive cars, live in a fancy house, wear lots of jewelry (real bling, that is) and designer clothes and know about food and wine, you may have culture to others.
But I don’t think culture is about buildings except for historic ones. Culture is more about art and artists than art galleries. It is more about the hand-hewn cross on the hill than about the church with the tallest steeple. Culture is all about the people who made a place unique.
So can you “bring” culture to a place in a “facility”?
No. I pity that woman in the other town. You can display lifestyles, you can display art, you can bring artifacts into a building, but you can’t bring culture. You can’t cultivate it.
You either have it or you don’t -- and you know it when you see it/ And it doesn’t have anything to do with money or education or material possessions.
My friend is right. Glen Rose has a lot of culture – by any definition.