Friday, April 16, 2010
Why Tradition Matters
I can’t think of a more foolish attitude I harbor at times than when I look back on previous generations and assume they were ignorant, unenlightened, unaware and totally outside of what I’m thinking and experiencing today. I was reminded of something the British writer G.K. Chesterton wrote in his book Orthodoxy (Chapter 4):McCain is dead nuts on that people were not all that different generations, even centuries ago - only technology.“Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.” Chesterton goes on to say: “Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father.”And here’s the rub. While it is absolutely true that previous generations did not have the same technologies or understanding of “how things work” in their world, is there such a vast difference between 21st century people and those of previous centuries? Are we so far removed we think we can not possibly learn anything from our fathers, grandfathers and ancestors in the past. I’m particularly struck by this when I consider, as I grow older, how my own parents appear ever increasingly wise. The tradition in Asian culture of revering elders has much to commend it. Today, we regard those older than us as people who, obviously, are not as “in touch” with “reality” as we are. And even more so do we view our ancestors as hopelessly irrelevant.
And one wonders about the wisdom of letting technology supplant tradition. You see tradition is nothing more than a means of preserving information - and as best as I can tell technology is easier, but not necessarily more reliable than tradition as a means of that preservation.
I rarely crack open a paper and binding Bible anymore - I have several electronic ones that are just better - but what happens when the power goes out - and there is even no light to read. I have me memory, aided by music. What happens in a few generations when all memory can conjure up is "Our God is an Awesome God."
Tradition is how Christianity survived 1600 years until the printing press and how it survived from then until now. Somehow I think it will be tradition, not technology that keep it alive in the next millenia.