I am not an anti-traditionalist. I love some tradition and find it to be refreshing and inspiring. Tradition keeps us grounded and allows us to learn from the generations who have come before us. Tradition allows us to have roots. It frees us from myopia and causes us to see our place in the grand picture.
And then there is a dark side.
Tradition can be death. It brings stagnation. It kills our innate need for adventure and danger. It makes us comfortable, and fat, and lazy. It makes us value safety above action. It makes us people of the past rather than the future. It destroys exploration and discovery. It makes us satisfied. It makes us suspicious . It makes us irrelevant.
A pioneer sets off in a new direction. His dream: to to see new sight, establish new routes to travel, and to go where no man has gone before. At first it is a difficult trek. He chops through forests of thick growth, climbs rocky hills, and crosses rough water. He makes slow but exciting headway, and what was once an impassible wilderness becomes a recognizable path.
After a few journeys back and forth others begin to see the value of the adventurer’s route. Other daring souls join the pioneer, and the path widens. The road that began as a slight clearing widens to a dirt trail. The rocky places are smoothed over and the uncomfortable bits are gradually evened out.
As the path is worn more and more, it becomes a natural place for rain water to run. This begins to to cause erosion and more wear. In some ways this makes travel of the new road even easier. More travelers become comfortable with the route as it is no longer dangerous.
And it continues to wear.
Now it is not just a trail, but a ditch worn through the wilderness. The ditch deepens as heavy feet, rain water, and wagon wheels travel back and forth until it becomes a trench.
Now as we make our journey we cannot even see the wild forest around because the trench has become so deep. We continue to travel this way, because, of course, it is the best way, or so we have heard.
We tell stories of the great pioneer who first cleared this past though the wilderness. We admire him. He was a good man. We hear some stories of others who have wandered off the past (or trench) to seek new adventures or clear new paths. They are not good men. They are foolish. We know that this path is the only true path.
We begin to equate our path with something divine. It is not simply the way we travel, but the road ordained by God. We don’t think that others are sinful for traveling new and different paths, but they would cetainly find themselves closer to God if they travelled our road. I mean God’s road.
And we continue to travel this trench of a road, completely disinterested with anything beyond beyond our tench.
And our trench becomes a grave.
A grave where we have forgotten the world, and the world has forgotten us.