Traditions

 Traditions happen on a lot of levels. There are holidays & habit pattern traditions, unconscious behavior and social standard traditions, knee jerk reactions and thought pattern traditions. Traditions aren’t limited to the context of celebrations and holidays and they are things we tend to accept without question.  

 On a societal level many of our celebration traditions stretch back to pagan times but are now defined as Christian holidays. Before Christmas was Christmas it was the celebration for the son of the Babylonian queen of heaven. Easter was the celebration of the pagan god, Ishtar and Halloween finds it’s origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain. These holidays and other social traditions such as birthday’s, weddings, baptisms, etc., serve to help keep us focused on what’s generally important and gives us the opportunity to strengthen our social bonds. In short they add meaning and structure to our lives and strengthen our social systems. And they change to keep pace with the world. The observation of the Sabbath, a once important Jewish tradition, has decreased steadily as work and family concerns became more important than strictly adhering to church doctrine. Similarly, a recent study by the British government found that two years ago parents considered the tradition of an annual break away with their children a necessity. Now largely due to economic concerns, it is regarded as something they can live without, a clear case of the tradition changing to fit a changing world.

 On a personal level we develop our traditions from social experience and observation. If we observe our parents being contentious and in conflict constantly we could develop the personal tradition of being too aggressive as well. Perhaps we’d go the opposite route and develop a passivity designed to avoid conflict at any cost. Which ever direction we choose our first tradition ‘set’ is a reaction to our experience and sometimes that’s great and sometimes it’s not. How often do you question the traditions you participate in? Did you really want to fly to San Diego to spend Christmas with your brother’s family …. for the eighth year in a row? Do you really think its right to put up with the horrible things your Grandmother say’s because it’s your families’ tradition to put up with anything from the matriarch? What do you put up with in the name of tradition? Do you need to?

 Obviously all traditions are not negative. Treating others as you’d like to be treated, getting together with family & friends to celebrate a holiday or a birthday or whatever can be wonderful and contribute very positively to our human experience. 

 Many of our personal traditions operate below the level of our awareness. Perhaps your unaware of a tendency to self deprecate when you meet someone new. Maybe your eyes tend to linger a bit too long when an attractive stranger enters the room. One of my old traditions was to be too passive and quiet when I really wanted to speak up, and then get really mad and explode. I thought that was just how I was, my ‘natural self’. When I finally realized I had a choice and that I didn’t have to behave on automatic, it wasn’t that hard to get into the new tradition of speaking up earlier and avoiding the explosions. 

What I’m getting at here is that some traditions both personal and societal, are positive and should be kept and those that don’t work need to be modified or perhaps abandoned altogether …. and that’s OK, it’s a natural part of our evolution. 

 It’s our right to choose but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to stray from the path most traveled. In the context of family changing traditions can be about as much fun as a badger in your pants, particularly if the family in question is strict and/or patriarchal. For all its bluster, stiffness and resistance strict traditionalism simply doesn’t make sense. As times and circumstances change, our lives become different and some of the old traditions can’t possibly make sense anymore. Because IBM stock was a wise investment in the 70’s doesn’t make it so today. If sever traditionalists follow their ‘no change’ dogma completely shouldn’t we all be following the first patriarch from the earliest days of human society? Why would change between then and now be OK, but no further? 

The more aware we are of our personal traditions and the social traditions that surround us the more freedom we have to create our lives as best we can, particularly if we give ourselves the permission to choose how we actualize those traditions. Change undoubtedly takes effort and trial & error to find what works best given current circumstances. While it may not be easy, that freedom sounds a lot better to me than a life limited by fear and unawareness. 

We could also use some new traditions that could help our world function better. How would our society be effected if the super successful and wealthy followed Warren Buffet’s example and engaged in a tradition of changing their focus from supporting their personal businesses and endeavors to trying to help correct world problems such as poverty and hunger, when they hit a certain ‘max out’ wealth level?  

What new traditions can you come up with to make your life and this world a better place to live?

Slack/2010
 
  
 


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