Some men look at tradition with contemptuous disdain. They’re proud to label themselves iconoclasts, misfits, rebels. And why not? Our modern age glorifies a rugged individualism, so much so that we’ve ensconced it forever in our culture. It’s in our movies, our books, our songs, even in the statues we erect.
From the proud frontiersman like Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie who explored our once untamed wilds to the fictional heroes we aspire to emulate like John McClane and Dirty Harry, unorthodoxy is written in our DNA.
A problem may come though, when individualism becomes perversity. In the increasingly frantic pace of our world, too many have sought to become rebels simply for the sake of rebelling. When asked, most would be hard pressed to even tell you what they stand in defiance against. For such people, the mere mention of our heritage is anathema. Anything ‘old’ is uninteresting, and being proud of your history is only acceptable if you have the ‘right’ history.
I might imagine they envision traditionalists as lumbering Neanderthals, content to crawl the earth with club and loincloth, ignoring the offer of fire an evolved Cro-Magnon might proffer. We know, of course, that nothing is further from the truth.
The respect and honor we show our forebears and our heritage is not a belief that their actions and beliefs are beyond amendment. We know full well and appreciate the progression of the human mind, the discovery of new truths, and the evolution of institutions.
It is in fact that desire for exploration instilled in us from our past that drives us to seek new horizons, to gaze upon the parting mists of an unknown shore. But it is tradition that passes onto us those desires, those values, and those characteristics upon which we can build an even greater, brighter future.
We look to the past not because we think we will never do better, but because the greatness of our ancestors inspires us to follow in their footsteps. At some point in his life, each man feels the desire to earn his name, to show the world and our forefathers that we are worthy to carry the torch onto the next generation.
A connection to our history is important for this reason – it shows us where we are coming from so that we might better understand where we are going. It anchors us in time and allows the progression to a better tomorrow, not one blown about by the passing fads of the current era.
It has been said before but bears repeating, the next time we are accused of being old-fashioned, out of date, or antiquated in our notions let us remind them that tradition is not the worship of ashes, but rather the preservation of fire.