Heritage is important and most of us feel we need to make efforts to conserve it. These days there is renewed vigour in the area of culture and heritage especially now that for the first time in the history of Pakistan our cultural policies have been officially passed first in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and then followed by our national cultural policy. There are many cultural enthusiasts and professionals who are doing a remarkable job at creating awareness about conserving culture and heritage. Many cultural conferences and gatherings are taking place and with enthusiasm and energy. As cultural activities are gaining momentum, perhaps we need to dwell more into why they are important. Are they important because the entire world tells us so? Is there more to conserving heritage than merely an exciting but disconnected and down and out past to be sold for more tourists’ money. Most people are aware of the obvious style side of culture, of how we look in traditional clothes, how our old heritage buildings look, and what it looks like to celebrate the culturally rather degrading ‘Paindu Day’ in some of our universities. Dress for instance, evolves in line with not just our identity and fashion but also in harmony with our climate, geography and way of life. Naturally, fifty degrees Celsius temperature and tropical climate requires a different dress compared to the region with negative fifty degrees Celsius like that in Canada. It is precisely for this reason that people in the desert and tropical and warmer regions wear turbans and dhotis. Turbans insulate wearer’s head from extreme outside heat in a desert. A dhoti keeps the wearer airy, cool and dry in hot and wet weather. Eskimos in colder regions would naturally have a different take on dress in accordance with their climate and not with what the climate is like in Pakistan. Similarly, architecture must also be in line with our living. An airy open building would not be suitable for cold climates. A big fixed glass style of building blocking wind and allowing sunlight inside might be extremely suitable for cold and windy conditions but would become extremely uncomfortable in warmer climates and would require constant and high energy-consuming air conditioning. For a place like Pakistan, this glass-box building idea might not be suitable since air conditioning is expensive, climate is hot and cost of living is going up with every minute. Like music and poetry, sometimes architecture also involves religious and spiritual beliefs and concepts of its inhabitants in its elements like the structure of a dome with its base depicting our worldly life and as we rise in spirituality we go into the divine spin, ultimately going into the spiritual state of fana. I got this information at NCA Lahore from the lecture of a German professor and architect during her visit to Pakistan several years ago. I am certain other architects who have properly studied sacred geometry and art in Islamic architecture might be able to shed more light on the spiritual elements present in traditional architecture of Pakistan, the Indian Subcontinent, and other parts of the world. Only when we understand the significance of architectural elements in our heritage and their relevance to our way of life today, we would truly start appreciating our heritage Only when we understand the significance of architectural elements in our heritage and their relevance to our way of life today, we would truly start appreciating our heritage and one practical way of this appreciation would be for us to incorporate all these elements with physical and spiritual meanings in our lives. It is interesting to note that the longer we remain aloof of our heritage, the more effort and cost is needed to bring it back into our lives. The architecture of the past now not only seems impractical but it is also out of reach of common people since it has become a novelty and too expensive to afford. We feel satisfied once we have brought our heritage to our museums and archives and conserved it that way. This is when we believe we have done our bit and achieved all there was to it. The other day, while attending a conference on folk heritage and story-telling in Karachi, I was listening to folk music with lyrics touching upon spiritual concepts of murshad and mureed (spiritual master and disciple) and how important it is to our wellbeing and for the fulfilment of the purpose of our lives. Indeed the entire gathering was mesmerized by the singer’s voice and the powerful words of her folk song. However, very few considered the actual usefulness of those words and how they were calling upon the listeners to tread the spiritual path. The spiritual themes were perhaps ‘intellectually enjoyable in a profound way’ but with little or no practical significance for our times. This folk heritage thus remained confined to mere enjoyment, and though indicative of fine folk musical taste of the listeners, ended up being nothing more than merely old and rather out of fashion art. The idea of culture is that it should naturally evolve and evolve to be what it is at any given time. That also means that it undergoes changes that systematically get incorporated due to changes in geography, technology, and any internal or external influences. However, healthy cultural evolution is always in sync with society, its identity and its history and yet addresses demands of changing times. Heritage is built on sound, consistent, aesthetically beautiful, and extremely practical ideas and scientific designs that have stood the test of time. While most of us appreciate that heritage shapes our identity and keeps us anchored with our past, what is sometimes overlooked is that it also equips us to tackle our present and future. It is this aspect of heritage that is missing in our very well meaning ‘heritage protection endeavours’. Unless we actually live our heritage and bring it in our lives, real significance and meaning of conserving heritage is lost. If we keep our heritage only to superficially look and sound good, and do not connect to it in our living, it loses its true usefulness – of conveying to us the thousands of years old divine wisdom, sound ideas and principles our ancestors lived by, and how these can be useful even today for our material and spiritual journey. Unfortunately, the more disconnected we get from our heritage and history, the fewer reasons we find for its usefulness in our lives today. When we truly connect to our history, our heritage, and our roots, this intense and passionate land we call Pakistan will start connecting to us, conveying to us its treasures of divine wisdom, and revealing its long-kept mystical secrets we so badly need to survive in today’s modern but spiritually wounded world. Writer is a visiting professor at NCA, and has taught and designed history and culture courses at various universities in Pakistan for over fifteen years. He can be contacted at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, December 31st 2018.