Bohemian Culture is Now the Norm

By Pamela Chan

“We have to recognize that many of our present assumptions about life have originated from people who, sometimes in very small ways but motivated by revolutionary ideals, hope and defiance of convention, challenged the establishment 100 years ago. In a way, we’re all Bohemians now. We can conduct relationships with people from any social class without fear of ostracism, while deploring oppressive, stratified societies. Our choice of friendships and love affairs is our own. The idea of chaperonage makes us laugh; women are independent. We recognize that children have potential which must not be squashed.  We take it for granted that society is fluid, that informality will prevail. We do not expect to behave like marionettes at any social gathering. We are hatless, relaxed and on first name terms with people we barely know.” (Virginia Nicholson, Great-Niece of Virginia Woolf)

An article about the influence of the Bloomsbury group is a reminder that it is easy to forget how restricted people’s lives were in British Columbia and elsewhere a hundred years ago.  Today we can mix and mingle with people from all socio-economic backgrounds, visit artist studios on Commercial Drive or exchange ideas with academics at one of the Lower Mainland’s many universities.  There are continuous opportunities for our children to not only learn more about different cultures and lifestyles, but to understand the world from different perspectives.

Earlier groups of individuals – such as members of the Bloomsbury group – challenged social mores and paved the way for our more accepting and egalitarian times.  Let’s take advantage of the benefits their efforts reaped.

*Letter to a Young Mother*

(Poem by the 7th century female poet Sappho, translated by Donald Robert Paul Roche, A British poet, novelist, Professor of English and associate of the Bloomsbury group.)

Darling, let the children grow and do not falter.

There’s little you can do and nothing alter.

If you will only steep them in your quiet loving,

and let their angels play among their living.

There is a seed inside that you can nurture, stronger than your hope.

As strong as nature.


So darling, let the children grow and do not falter.

There’s little you can do and nothing alter.


No bomb exists can blast away their choosing.

Nor way to substitute yourself for losing.

You cannot save them from the test they’re made for.

But hug them to your heart and heaven prayed for.


So darling, let the children grow and do not falter.

There’s little you can do and nothing alter.


Everything is theirs, and theirs the reaping.

Of years both gold and years gone wan with weeping.

The light that lightens every man will lighten the way they go.

And there no monster frighten.


So darling, let the children grow and do not falter.

There’s little you can do and nothing alter

(For more see:  The Complete Poems of Sappho (Willis Barnstone, Editor)

To Consider:

How do you help your children to understand the different socio-economic realities of British Columbians?

How does your family interact with people of backgrounds different than your own?

How does your family celebrate the rich diversity of experiences and lived realities in our communities?

In your home, how do you maintain an open mind about people who think or live differently than you do?

Do you model this compassion and understanding to your children?

To Do:

* read the Bohemian Manifesto to challenge any fixed notions you might have about lifestyle choices.

Bohemianism is a way of life, a state of mind, an atmosphere. It is not a trend, it’s a timeless movement. It is about living beyond convention. Bohemian Manifesto explores and joyfully celebrates the creativity, the originality, and the splendor of a lifestyle and spirit shared by free-thinking, free-living artists, poets, writers, sculptors, musicians, and intellectuals.

* check out community links on the Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival website

* listen to music from the world music section of your local library or music store. (For example, Puntamayo compilation CDs.  Check out a Putamayo music sampler. )

* watch for and take part in community events such as the Greek Day and Francophone festival

* seek out settings – such as restaurants and commercial stores – where people from different ethnic backgrounds congregate. (For example, Quebecois Zinzanie Bistro, the Greek Parthenon Supermarket, the Japanese Fujiya stores, Chinatown and food stores and restaurants in Richmond, Iranian restaurants and food stores in North Vancouver, the Richmond Night Market, and the Aberdeen Centre.

* watch for events at cultural centres such as the Nikkei Japanese Cultural Centre, Italian Cultural Centre, the Scandinaivan Community Centre and Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Classical garden

* enroll in classes featuring dance and marital arts from around the world

* attend a wide variety of events featuring dance and the Arts that regularly come to town.  (For example, Ukrainian dancing, African Children’s choir or dance and acrobatic events from China).

These are just a small sampling of the many opportunities that exist in the Lower Mainland.

The Case for Contamination. (Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Times)

Cultural Diversity in Knowledge Societies

Book Reference

Virginia Woolf:  A Writer’s Life

Growing up Global: Raising Children to be at Home in the World, by Homa Sabet Tavangar

Growing up Global offers fascinating ideas for giving young people opportunities to become truly global citizens. Learning about the customs and culture of others around the globe enriches our lives so much and can only lead to better understanding and cooperation for generations to come.”—Jane Goodall

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2 Responses to “We’re All Bohemians Now”

  1. You can see Paul Roche and numerous other great poets reading their poems of enlightenment at the poetryreincartions youtube channel

  2. Becky says:

    I love Growing Up Global!! What a great book!:)

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