Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 25 - Tradition

A wise man once said, "Without our Traditions, our life would be as shaky as... as... as a Fiddler on the Roof!" (that wise man was Tevye the Dairyman as portrayed by Topol in his farewell tour of Fiddler on the Roof - if this tour comes anywhere near you, go see it!

As I am one who questions EVERYTHING, I must counter this statement with my own thoughts; those being, "If we blindly cling to our Traditions, our lives will be as shaky as said Fiddler on the Roof!" I think our Traditions arose out of habit and need, not forethought and understanding.

When we get into the habit of doing something over and over, we call this a Tradition (eating a Turkey on Thanksgiving). These are rites or deeds or thoughts that are handed down from our ancestors. We are taught to respect our elders, so if these are things our elders did, then they should be respected and continued. But does that make them right?

Now turkey on Thanksgiving might be a benign tradition, but if the turkey became an endangered species today and we continued - no, insisted - on eating it every year, would that be right? Should that tradition now be changed or rethought? Turkeys were one time extremely plentiful, now they are not. If the turkeys had been in such limited supply 'back in the day', would this have ever been established as the traditional Thanksgiving Feast bird-of-choice or would our ancestors have chosen another bird? And had they chosen another, that would today be our Tradition.

Many of our traditions fall by the wayside over time and that can be a shame (nightly dinner with the family to discuss every one's day), but some traditions - those established out of fear or ignorance or simply lack of knowledge - are OK if they go away. Inequality is one of those that has (fortunately) been on the decline and should go away completely.

Society's view of women (they should stay at home, cook and clean, not have a vote, walk behind their husband, etc.) have thankfully fallen by the wayside. Society's view of race is (too slowly for me) on the decline. Arranged marriages - while they may have had their place at one time - no longer work or exist in a lot of societies. In the last few decades, Diversity has become a positive thing - interracial or interfaith relationships are no longer something to be shunned - again, not in all societies, but in a lot of them.

The concept of Love has trumped a lot of these traditions. In our society - for the most part - we are free to meet and love whomever we want.

While we still have a long way to go, we are questioning our traditions every day. I for one am OK with that. I actually see it as a good thing. A positive step in our growth as a species.

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