Yesterday we discussed the combination of Religion and Tradition, and showed that society must disregard both Religion and Tradition when they try to maintain old customs that have become harmful through the passage of time and the progress of thought.
Today we will examine what happens when we rely on Tradition too much, and we will see that it is a bad idea to do so, because change is more prevalent than stasis.
Over-reliance on Tradition
Tradition does not easily cede to change. This external fact reflects the inner state of most people, who find change difficult to accept. Unfortunately, reality does not care about human limitations, especially when they are learned responses that aren’t well adapted to the rest of the world.
To rely on tradition too much, to insist that you keep to the old ways in nearly all circumstances, is to cut yourself off from the ability to adapt. And if you can’t adapt, you can never make an ally out of change—which is the only way to keep up with the reality, which is constantly in flux, always shifting, continually altering.
Over-reliance on tradition—which is to say, too great a need for stability—can range from a mild intransigence to a wild-eyed fanaticism for recreating the past. But if it is maintained long enough, the outcome will always be the same: tragedy for those who insist on staying the same in a changing world.
Change more prevalent than stasis
It is clear on casual observation that change is more prevalent than stasis. Everything is changing constantly, from the tiniest particles that constitute matter to the minute-by-minute course of our lives. In fact, Tradition soothes people precisely because it tries to put up a roadblock to this constant change. “Here,” they say, “I can go and see that something has stayed the same.” But this trick is only necessary because we are upset by the fact the everything is always changing.
While it may give us emotional satisfaction to try to carve out some unchanging area of our lives, and while it may indeed be possible to access some aspect of reality that does not change, too much insistence on not changing is a recipe for self-destruction.
Adaptability to change is essential both to survival and to creativity. It is obvious that survival depends on it. If your climate dries up so that water is impossible to access, then it’s time to pack up and move. Trying to deny this reality and pretend that the old traditions of water-collecting are still valid is just acting out a death-wish.
It is perhaps less obvious that over-reliance on tradition is death to creativity—but only a bit less obvious. Certainly any one who has worked in an office situation can understand the lack of creative vision that hounds corporate life. How much of this stolidity is the result of unchanging traditions in the form of office policies, behavior codes, and thought-policing? A great deal.
Indeed many people adhere to tradition precisely because they don’t want to have to exercise any creativity. Creativity is dangerous, untested, open to criticism. It requires you to change your normal way of thinking—and most people can’t seem to do this without also getting upset that their normal way of thinking may not be good enough.
Tradition and creativity can be compatible, but for the most part, people regard them as opposites. Truly creative people, however, know how to transform Tradition, and make something new from the storehouse of old materials.
Tomorrow we will see just how much truth can safely be ascribed to Tradition, which is to say, to just what extent we should allow Tradition to influence our lives.
Until tomorrow, then.
20 December 2012
by Alfred George filed under