Selkirk College has been a part of a provincial initiative that has the lofty aspiration to “Change the Culture of Substance Use” on B.C. campuses. Recently two research associates from the UVic Centre for Addictions Research came to Castlegar to attend a conference on “Youth and Addictions” and to meet with some members of our local Community of Practice to brainstorm our next steps forward in helping the Student Residences to deepen their cultures of belonging and well-being. During one dialogue I commented that I have been noticing that intentionally adding beauty to a situation seems to uplift the environment and even possibly change the tone of interactions. For instance, the ritual of putting down a table cloth and adding flowers might evoke a connection to the ancient human traditions of cooking and eating meals together and it is possible that these details help people soften and relax and engage differently with one another.
It is fascinating to ponder the ingredients of culture as we are so immersed in our own matrix that we rarely take the time to examine the thoughts, behaviors, values and routines that shape us. Culture has been described as the software that programs us and on this particular lush, May Kootenay morning, I contemplate how both our internal well-being and our external culture is determined by where we choose to focus our attention. Poets and gardeners are both masters at paying attention to reality’s sensual details. So – on a day when the first peonies are bursting open, here is Mary Oliver’s poem to deepen our sense of wonder, beauty and offer us a glimpse of our place in the intricate culture of living things:
“And there it is again – beauty the brave, the exemplary
Do you love this world?
Do you love your humble and silky life?”