Lifestyle: Is the tradition an obstacle to our freedom?
Throughout most of my life I was a quite traditional person. I was religious. I was respecting the established rules in my family. I was adjusting to the social norms. All of that was normal for me. No surprise as I was born and raised in a specific environment where people were taught to do things for the simple fact that other people were doing them since forever.
I was asking my mom:
– Why are you doing this if you don’t like it?
– Because we all should do this. – she replied.
– But why we should do this? – I insisted.
– This is the way we do it. It was always like this. All people around do it this way. – she cut.
So I was doing things their way, but I knew that one day I will be doing them completely differently. I hated the idea of doing something just because other people did. If something was purposeless or meaningless, I felt like removing it from my life forever.
I need to know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.
If I pray or go to church which happens rather rarely, I don’t do it because I have to. I do it because I see its purpose. I want to do it consciously. I want to be aware. It was not the case before. Before it was a habit. I was feeling obliged to do it.
If I visit some of my relatives, I do it because I miss them, not because it’s my responsibility to meet them from time to time as they’re my family. Before, I was seeing them for the sake of fulfilling a commitment.
If I help people, I don’t do it because I should do it. I help because it’s my conscious decision and willingness to share my time, my attention, my energy. This is why I stopped a volunteering. I realized that I was not helping people to make them feel better. I was helping them to make myself feel better. To feel that I’m a good person. That my presence means something. That I’m needed.
Some people become doctors, lawyers, soldiers, businessmen, teachers not because it’s something they always wanted to do. It’s because it’s their family tradition. Because their mother, father, grandmother, grandfather were doing it as well and they feel beholden to follow the same professional or personal path. They abandon their own aspirations being afraid of the family’s disapproval. Being afraid of disappointing them. Or in the worst scenario of being rejected by them. This is how people agree to lead an unhappy life, but in line with the family’s wishes.
Is the tradition dangerous?
Not every tradition is dangerous. But every tradition should be carefully examined. The tradition might be dangerous if it’s taken for granted. If it’s followed without the slightest reflexion. Then it can cause more harm than the advantage. Pursuing blindly some rules without understanding them can be destructive.
I’m thinking about all people and groups of people who don’t question what they do, what they believe in, what’s important for them. In my opinion, questioning is essential to find meaning. Obeying the rules without questioning their value is a simple habit. Habits might be dangerous if they’re performed in a thoughtless way.
Is the tradition expendable?
Too much tradition can be stifling. Too little can be terrifying chaos.
As one person told me, the tradition gives a framework to survive. Jews are a group that managed to survive 2000 years without a country, but the tradition held them together. The tradition helped them to overcome tough challenges and to recover after painful experiences.
Another person said that tradition is a synonym for history. Denying history makes us repeat the mistakes of our ancestors. The same applies to good things from the past. Denying them deprives of a due appreciation for people and their sacrifices which made us live the way we do today.
Is our freedom endangered by the tradition?
Freedom without tradition means no marriage, no families raising children, no burial of the dead, no connection with the elderly, no religion and no holidays. Just individual humans bouncing around like atoms of gas.
Freedom is not something which stems from the tradition. It’s something being acquired. The tradition itself is not an obstacle to freedom if we don’t let it be. Freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of choice. They’re all in our hands. We decide to what degree we let the tradition interfere.
I really like a statement of an Australian man, 79 years-old Joe, who said that the key is to have open eyes and mind. The key is to ask myself a question: What will I learn today? This question is valid despite any tradition which is put in place.
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