Your Ancestry speaks to your background, but what relevance does that have to your current life and world view?
The Human Condition is underpinned by the search for self. But to truly know ourselves we need to better understand our place in this world and our life’s true purpose. Learning about our ancestry, how our forebears lived and our cultural origins is central to this search.
Historical photos and home movies; family stories; and good old mythology enable us to trace our past and gain a better understanding of where we’ve come from.
This gives us a base from which to determine our own identity. That which we accept and that which we choose to discard.
Once we’ve come to terms with who we are and from where we’ve come we can approach the road ahead with greater confidence and clarity. And in our modern, contemporary world clarity may be what we need most.
The future is, however, an abstract notion.
But don’t let that worry you, as it’s clearly out of your control. Just stay confident in who you are and what your purpose in life is. All that’s required then is to make the most of each and every day in the knowledge that, if you stay true to your purpose, the future will unfold as it should.
What’s Your Place In The World?
What’s your world view? Despite a range of hardships and disadvantages we live in a most beautiful world.
Beauty is accessible to us through improved transportation, better tourist infrastructure and the ways in which modern technology allows us to appreciate the world beyond our own backyard.
The internet has allowed us to connect in a way that simply wasn’t possible for our forebears. You could say that the internet has brought the exotic to the suburbs.
We’re able to learn so much more about the world and its people without even leaving the comfort of our lounge chair.
Nonetheless, knowledge is not enough. Wisdom is the marriage of knowledge and experience and that’s why travel is, to my mind, the best education there is.
Not that we need to travel the world to experience beauty or tap into the meaning of life. Being mindful and receptive to the world around you on a simple neighborhood walk can be both educational and inspirational.
So, regardless of whether we’re immersed in a spectacular midnight sun cruise on the Ilulissat Icefjord in Greenland or by making unique pictures closer to home, beauty is accessible where and whenever we seek it out.
Ultimately I believe our ability to actually see and appreciate the beauty of the world around us, whether we are, brings us to a better understanding of our own identity by cultivating a more harmonious relationship with nature and the sublime.
Culture Is About More Than Just Food
Actually, I feel our national and cultural identify is less important than our position as world citizens.
However, I also see a need to celebrate our cultural background which is based, largely, upon our origins and the history of our forebears.
Some dedicated armchair or desktop research will help uncover the stories of those that have come before us.
Likewise, if cultural traditions remain strong in your own family, you would have soaked up a great many traditions around the dinner table and during important celebrations and religious practices over the years.
And of course there’s sport. Is the game you follow the national sport of the country in which you live, or has your support been shaped by the passion with which one or more of your parents follow the game.
There are many ways in which our ancestry can influence and inform our own identity. Nonetheless, it seems to me that the best way to understand your cultural heritage is to spend time in the country of your ancestors.
Assuming you can afford to do so and that there’s a likelihood of relatively safe travel, I’d recommend this opportunity to all.
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Make Sure You Add Spice To The Melting Pot
Needless to say in countries that are great melting pots, like Australia, it’s also good for other Aussie’s, indigenous and otherwise, to visit countries outside of their own cultural origins.
After all, to establish a truly homogenous society we need to understand and, where appropriate, embrace cultural practices outside our own.
Surely this kind of growth is a central component to our ever evolving local culture.
Take, for example, folk from Chinese origins. They’re an increasingly significant and important part of the cultural mix in present day Australia.
I’ve been fortunate to have traveled and photographed in China on four occasions. I even made it to base camp at Mt Everest way back in 1988.
My own, limited perceptions of what it might mean to be Chinese are far more developed than they would have been for the average Anglo/Irish Aussie. And that’s because of the experiences I’ve had and the long-term friends I’ve made during my travels to China.
Hongcun Village Represents Authentic China
The above photo was made, at dusk, on my most recent trip to China. The scene depicted is from Hongcun, a classic village in Eastern China.
The weather was overcast which illuminated the scene with a lovely, soft light. The overcast conditions also provided a wonderful mix of warm and cool light which added a lovely color contrast to the scene.
Color, light, shape and texture work together with near windless conditions to produce a photo that suggests balance, harmony and tranquility.
The secret to these images is that I arrived very late in the day, just as the last tourist buses were leaving.
Hongcun village has become hugely popular and, as such, the notion of an authentic Chinese village is something of a myth.
Nonetheless, the tourists bring money, as does the fact that the village has been used as a location in many local TV shows and films.
Residents are prospering and, outside of the busy tourists times, activity in the village slows down and the seemingly idyllic life for the people of Hongcun returns.
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Photography straddles the line between a detailed, documentary observance of our world and the mythology that’s created by the way we interpret and communicate our experiences.
We determine the truth of the world around us as both an accumulation of facts and through the way we respond, on an emotional level, to those places, events and relationships we experience.
My contention is that folks tend to let facts get in the way of a good truth. Given that those words can be confused with each other, let me say the following:
Let your own journeys, whether from the comfort of an armchair or through travels abroad, allow you to explore your ancestry and bring you to a better understanding of your own unique identity and life’s purpose.
I’d like to dedicate the photo’s in this post to my dear friend, Zhang Shu Lan, whom I met during my first visit to China way back in 1988.
Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru