It still matters

In San Francisco, as everywhere, tradition often stand in stark contrast to modernity. January 2004

In San Francisco, as everywhere, tradition often stands in contrast to modernity.
January 2004

“Tradition does not mean a dead town; it does not mean that the living are dead but that the dead are alive. It means that it still matters what Penn did two hundred years ago or what Franklin did a hundred years ago…”G. K. Chesterton

Tevye isn’t the only one who prizes tradition.  I count among my friends and relatives many who are loyal to tradition in various aspects of life, and I am certainly into tradition in many ways (you don’t want to get me started talking about Christmas traditions here).

However, like Tevye, many of us who prize tradition have been taking some hard knocks lately.  The world is changing at a head-spinning rate, and while change is not necessarily bad, it isn’t necessarily good, either.  Much that seems eternally valuable to us appears to be increasingly disregarded, sometimes without adequate thought or reasoning.  Many of us may find ourselves in the position of Tevye, carefully debating when and where to draw the line between welcoming the new and standing our ground on matters of principle, faith or personal ethics.

Regardless of where one stands on controversial issues, perhaps we all could start by agreeing that history does matter; that we need to understand how we got to the place we are now, in order to see the way forward.  It bothers me to hear people talk as if history is meaningless.  History is a rich, largely undiscovered gold mine of wisdom that, though it is often interpreted in conflicting ways, can tell us much about who we are, what to embrace, and what to avoid.

I hope that you’ll spend some time, today or someday soon, to discover a bit more about the history and traditions of your state, your town or your family.  Like it or not, we all continue to live with the influence of what has happened long before we got here, and we would do well to know it better.  Happy time traveling!

19 Comments

  1. Julia, I completely agree with you. We’ve all heard that if we don’t learn from the past, we will be bound to repeat it. That is a true statement, but it carries a negative, finger-pointing tone with it. I married a history buff; and for 22 years I have been visiting historical sites and museums all over the United States. I have found, like you, that learning about the lives of great men and women encourages me to keep a tight grip on my own dreams; it encourages me to be courageous when believing something different than popular thought. I am also encouraged that anything worthwhile is worth working hard for. There is also much architectural and natural beauty to be seen at historical sights. We take our kids to theme parks when we’re in vacation, but we always try to add in an historical sight; they’ve always found something of interest to them.

    • I’m so happy to hear that you feel the same way about history. Part of what I came to love so much about living in Virginia is that the recorded history here, while recent compared to Asia and Europe, goes about as far back as anyplace in this country. There is so much to learn from people who lived before us, and many of them were remarkably prolific in the writings they left for us. Thanks for being here and sharing your comment!

  2. Lynn

    Ah, true words. And nice validation for those of us with history majors to whom many voiced “what’s the point of that!” 😉

    • Yes, I never could figure out how people could see history as irrelevant (my undergraduate degree in Pol Sci/Communications was loaded with history requirements, but I loved them all). To me, history was more relevant than any other discipline, if only because all fields have to build on what went before. Hope you and your family are doing well!

  3. MaryAnn

    To live in peace & harmony before our Lord: that is a grand tradition to restore & uphold!
    In family, in church, in community, in our world…

    • How true, Mary Ann…”restore” is the operative word, but we want to improve it also, to include people we have “traditionally” excluded. Maybe if we keep at it, we’ll get it right eventually :-). Thanks for being here!

      • MaryAnn Clontz

        Julia: I LIKE that plan to include! What a joy to be able to praise God together in one voice! I love you….from the comment to your dad, I see your grandbaby’s name: Grady…NICE!

        • Thanks, Mary Ann. Grady is a name with historic connections to Atlanta, where the baby will be born and where Drew feels a deep connection through his extended family and also through his 7 years (so far) of living and going to school at Emory. (3 years of seminary and now just one more year to go on his 5-year PhD program! As long as he’s getting paid to go to school, we can’t complain. :-)) Drew has told us that Henry Grady was influential in their choice of a name. From what little I know about him, it seems Grady is a worthy source of inspiration.

  4. Carlyle

    The older I grow, The more tradition bound I become. I’m hoping I can pass some of it along to my grand children and great grand children.

    • Thanks Daddy, you have already passed so many traditions on to us (see my remark about Christmas, above :-)) but I too hope that you will be able to keep teaching your grand children and great grand children, including Grady, who should make his debut next month! Thanks for your comment, I always love to hear from you here. Hope you are feeling well today. Love from all 3 of us!

  5. I believe “education” is much to blame for the back seat that history has taken. You’d better believe that we are who we are because of our history…either as a nation or on a personal history level, and we need to be enriched by learning it!
    Don’t you love Tevye!!! His character is so true to what we all experience in the conflict between when to hold to tradition and when to move forward. I believe the key to figuring out the importance of a tradition is whether it is of God or of man.

    • Coming from a lifelong educator, that comment about “education” is indeed sobering. YES I love Tevye! It’s wonderful the way he comments on something profound with a generous helping of good humor. I agree that the traditions that come from God are the most important, but I also think there is value in traditions of various cultures, places and families; as Tevye explains, they do help us to keep our balance in a world that changes at a dizzying rate. As more and more people live far from their extended families, I think traditions are even more important in giving us a sense of stability.

      • I didn’t mean to diminish the value of a country’s traditions or our own personal traditions. They contribute so much to who we are and as you said, our stability. Let’s talk about my comment on “education” sometime!

        • Carla, I know you value traditions; we’ve had so much enjoyment of them together over the years. I think some of what is missing in education today may have to do with traditions, also. In our proclivity to look down on earlier generations and our rush to embrace new possibilities, we have sometimes failed to appreciate what worked well about “old school” methods. I’m sure there will be some quotes about related topics here in the future, but as you know, I always like talking about it with you in person too! 🙂

  6. Sheila

    Julia, I so love your Daddy’s comment about “older, tradition bound” as today I made the call to enroll for Medicare. I can’t quite describe how I feel! I know for sure I am so glad that I have you in my life. I do have sadness in my life, most recently, Salty, (my precious dog),but knowing that our friendship is so unique to both of us sees me through every day! That just comes from my heart….. Sheila

    • Thanks so much, Sheila. I have wondered how you are doing without Salty. It’s the sort of loss one can never really prepare for. For those of us whose children are grown, our dogs often spend more time with us than any human does. Eric said that he got his second dog, Heath, as an “inoculation” (I think that was his word) against the grief he will feel when he loses his canine friend Austin, who has been part of his family for many years. But even those who have more than one pet feel such losses deeply. I am glad our friendship brings you comfort! I’m also glad to see some of my friends and relatives reaching the age for Medicare, a mixed blessing if ever there was one! But a blessing nonetheless. As ever, thanks for being here!

      • Sheila

        Julia, yesterday was the one month date and a friend sent a card that mentioned how her Dad always said, when a pet passed, ” the ol’ guy is up in heaven with the windows of the car ALWAYS rolled down enjoying the breeze”. Just a comforting visual! I think Eric may be onto something. Hope Jeff is continuing to strengthen.

        • Sheila, I just love that! I always get such a kick out of seeing dogs hanging out car windows, so totally enjoying themselves. Jeff does seem to be doing better; I keep promising everyone an update but just can’t seem to get to it. Perhaps by the time I do, there will be some sort of definite good news to tell. Thanks for caring!

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