Tradition is hard to balance. Too little, and we lose some of our sense of who we are. Too much makes people and institutions unable to adapt to change. Here’s my take on it, borrowing heavily from the masterful “whiskey speech” of the late Judge Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat of Corinth. (If you haven’t read it, Google it and read it first, if you have online access.)
I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about tradition. All right, here is how I feel about tradition.
If when you say tradition you mean the chafing chains that pillory us to parts of a past best left behind, clinging desperately to that which impedes progress, unthinking belief that what has been must always be so; if you mean unquestioning loyalty to ways whose purposes are long forgotten, and adherence to ancient addictions, blundering blindness to the bondage of a world long gone, an unconscious embrace of malicious myths that bog us down in the mud of mediocrity; if you mean preservation of purposeless habits for their own sake, clinging to clueless customs out of foundless fear of the future, sacrificing tomorrow’s economic good for today’s emotional comfort; if you mean heedless Hedonism that dehumanizes our younger generations, misdirected dogmas that deny decency and resistance to the imperative and inevitable improvement of the human condition, then certainly I am against it.
If when you say tradition you mean grateful glimpses into a simpler and less-troubled era, embracing values proven by the ages, and a humble acceptance that wisdom did not begin with our own birth; if you mean beloved customs that form the fabric of families and communities and nations, rites that renew relationships, and touchstones that transmit timeless truths; if you mean the warm embrace of those who share our loyalties, the proud salute to those who went before us, the tender ties to places and people and principles; if you mean memories that gladden old hearts, lore that lights up young faces, or the inspiration, edification, history and mystery without which we are but soulless creatures, then certainly I am for it.
This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.
Errol Castens is the Daily Journal’s Oxford bureau reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (662) 816-1282.
Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal