I'm currently reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I'm reading it for two reasons: one, I love her. She's a genius and I want to be just like her one day!** Two, there's a $10,000 scholarship essay to be gained from reading it. So far, there's nothing remotely burdensome about reading this book and so I'll actually enjoy writing the essay.

Anyway, I just read this paragraph that struck a very deep chord in me (bold added for emphasis):

"The controlling stock of Taggart Transcontinental was left to James Taggart. He was thirty-four when he became president of the railroad. Dagny had expected the Board of Directors to elect him, but she had never been able to understand why they did it so eagerly. They talked about tradition, the president had always been the eldest son of the Taggart family; they elected James Taggart in the same manner as they refused to walk under a ladder, to propitiate the same kind of fear."

The little phrase that I made bold is just... wow... so true of what people have such a bad habit of doing. They act as though tradition were some sacred virtue, never to be questioned. I am amazed that people think that things and ideas of the past can't be improved upon. In history, it's been proven, time and again, that there is always room for improvement!

Obviously, tradition is inexorably tied up with religion. If people weren't afraid of breaking the sacred tradition, they would have no problem examining their method more closely. But, dare we offend the deceased? Dare we mar their memory by exposing their errors? No. We must make them Saints, never to be questioned or publicly defamed.

I'm about to defame my own grandfather. He was a Southern Baptist preacher before he died of colon cancer. I didn't have much of a relationship with him, but there are two dynamically different portraits painted of him by family members... and from the same family members to boot! On one hand, he is one of those men who is loved by all; someone revered and admired by his congregation and family. On the other hand, family members have whispered of his hot temper and, possibly, abusive tendencies. I think they don't talk about it now because maybe they don't think it's fair that he can't defend himself. Or, maybe they just want the memory of him left untainted. Whatever the case, I feel the reality of his character should be brought to light so that those who were damaged by him can heal!

In another context, not questioning or overthrowing tradition stunts growth. People suffer emotional wounds through their adult life and don't live up to their full potential; old businesses go under because new, innovative businesses take over; people remain mired in superstitions and spread the disease of religion to others, who in turn declare holy wars to defend their faith.

Tradition can be very, very bad.

**I no longer love Ayn Rand. In fact, I rather dislike her... but I still learned a few things from her.

Views: 27

Comment by Rev. Tom Hicks, D.D. on February 13, 2009 at 9:19pm
Or in case of the Constitution of the United States of America, tradition can save us from tyranny. Without its basic laws, we'd be in a police state or havin' the government decidin' how we should live & how to spend our money... oh wait, that's already happenin'. I'll stick with that one tradition. Less government is a good thing. Breakin' that tradition is breakin' our country.
Comment by CJoe on February 13, 2009 at 10:12pm
Is it tradition that saves us, or good laws? Tradition could bind us to tyranny as much as it could save us from it.
Comment by Rev. Tom Hicks, D.D. on February 13, 2009 at 10:29pm
So basically you're also advocatin' that tradition can be very, very good too? The laws became a way of life, hence, tradition.
Comment by CJoe on February 13, 2009 at 10:49pm
Eh, touche. But my point really is that it can be bad to get too hung up on old ways of doing things. Even if the tradition seems good, it should always be looked into and revised if necessary. Right? We think it's great now, but there's always room for improvement. Obviously, if it's perfect, leave it alone... but I don't think we know of anything that's perfect as is.
Comment by Rev. Tom Hicks, D.D. on February 13, 2009 at 10:56pm
I don't know. Since I've come from a family that lacked traditions, it's a little difficult to to see tradition as a totally bad thing. I do advocate "Question Everything" but it doesn't require the abandonment of traditions. Sort of like my job. We had a method to it, a tradition that got the work done effectively. We'd adapt when necessary, but then the bosses change our ways & now we're fucked so far up the arse that all I see is shit when I go into work. Change is good but to kill a tradition is not the answer, no matter how offended we get by 'em.
Comment by CJoe on February 14, 2009 at 6:48pm
Nah... I don't think you should just kill tradition without reason, but you should be willing to do it if it's necessary. I'm not against tradition; I'm against treating it as though it were sacred and something not to be tampered with. Understand? It's our attitude toward it that worries me.


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