My mother is a sophisticated woman. She is wise, strong, and knows what she wants. She is able to exert authority where she has it and can take orders which she knows to be expeditious to the particular goal she is working toward. She is adaptable, though in some respects she is traditional as well. I use my mom to model sophistication in my life. I hope to one day be able to rise to her level of maturity, although my definition of sophistication generally leaves out tradition, as I have always thought what a friend C.B. recently expressed to me in words, "Conformity is merely a façade for fear."
It is the traditional side of my mother that I want to discuss in this article. I think that one of the major disappointments I have caused my mother is not that I'm not heterosexual (which we've established between ourselves is not a choice) but that I'm Pagan. She, being a good Christian woman, fears my soul is in danger of hell not because I'm bisexual, but because she believes I've turned away from God (I haven't really, but that's for another article). She questions, occasionally, whether or not I'm afraid of going to hell. I'm not, as I don't REALLY believe in the concept, and consequently we have a futile and well-rehearsed argument over the Right and Wrongs of theology. These arguments make me realize how much our society is based on tradition. The church, family structures, laws and their enforcement, even and especially our daily routines are expressions of tradition. How we talk, walk, act, live our lives is deeply ingrained from the very first moments we're born. Those who deviate from the traditions of society are known as deviants (surprisingly enough) and generally shunned.
Consider this: in my very own hometown, male prostitutes were made to write letters to their wives explaining what they had done wrong and how sorry they were about it. Those who were unmarried didn't get off of the hook though; these offenders were made to write a paper on how important it is to have a wholesome city environment. Sound a little grade-schoolish to you? Another example: the church had its mass in Latin until the Second Vatican Council in 1965 a scant 33 years ago, even though people had asked for the change many years before. The church could not break the habit, and should the masses go back to Latin are shift to something infinitely more practical, such as Esperanto, there would be mass panic.
If you managed to stay with my column this long, you probably wonder where I'm going with this article. I'm making this point: where's the originality? Cleo said that those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it. This gives the impression that there is something wrong, even dangerous, with simply repeating what's already been done. When one tactic doesn't work we choose another. Granted some traditions are worth keeping around such as Christmas, schooling to an older age, all the major holidays, some of the minor ones depending on the country or area one lives in, as well as many personal traditions. People have to have patterns or life would eventually fall into entropy, as everything is wont to do. I'm not about to say that traditions are a bad idea; at least for that reason.
As much as we must avoid entropy as human beings, we must also avoid atrophy. Growth is a doctrine my mother teaches and lives by, she constantly is striving to accept my decision to convert to Paganism, even though it's hard for her, and comes to increasingly more tolerant conversations and meeting grounds for ideas. This is the REAL reason my mother is sophisticated; instead of just letting you stop to look at the stars, eventually she'll encourage you to look at the spaces in between them, and then at the spaces and the stars. Always expanding your vision.
For these very same reasons I think some traditions should be laid to rest. As to which traditions, that's a matter of opinion. Everyone should be able to find the tradition that most limits them and break it, or better yet refresh it. For example: do you know WHY you give presents on Christmas, or why you burn the tree so ceremoniously afterwards, or why you wear green on St. Patty's day, or why you face east instead of west to pray, or the purpose of hitting the snooze button five times and THEN getting up? What's the answer to your own question? How can you put on your own proverbial glasses and "see the light?"
I heard once of a lovely New Year's tradition where instead of simply making resolutions, the family would go into a forest bearing a candle, pass it around, and wish for something good to happen for the Earth. It's this type of growth and expansion on traditions that I'm talking about, and that I feel is necessary if the world is ever going to come to terms with each other. Tradition makes us SO set that we sometimes can't see how other people are thinking. Finding a common ground is the obvious solution, and this ground should be the acceptance of individuality. How sophisticated are you? Are you brave enough to become your OWN tradition?
Okay, for complaints, flames, comments, questions etc. etc. Write Kiwilliams@thacher.org
Bio of the dark mage (that's me!): I guess Oasis has been one of the better influences of my life. This California boy isn't about to just take without giving. For those of you who forgot (or care), this is me:
Name: Kipp Williams
Location: Ohio/California take your pick
Quotation: Is that me or Someone else's Me in the mirror?