"Culture is what is left over after you have forgotten all you have definitely set out to learn."
I was thinking of yesterday's quote and a book I know of: the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. It was written by a man named E.D. Hirsch in the early nineties. Hirsch thinks there are certain things every American needs to know in order to be considered "educated" or "cultured."
Some thought Hirsch was too dictatorial. Deciding what counts as cultural knowledge and what doesn't struck them as arrogant. But Hirsch had a good intention. He realized that in order to participate fully in an educated society, people need to know more than their A,B,C's. They need to have at least a vagues sense of the Boston Tea Party or what the Odyssey was. Hirsch's point is valid: pretending like there isn't a general body of knowledge called "culture" doesn't make it go away.
There's something admirable in Hirsch's attempt to help people toward attaining culture. But if Powys is right, then real culture is miles away from Hirsch's dictionary. Culture is not something you can set out to learn in a reference book. Culture is not something you can set out to learn, evidently, in any book. Culture is something that follows in the wake of learning.