I would like to make a prediction that within 150 years the Catholic Pope and her husband will be leading the fight to prevent people from marrying their android/synthetic lovers. I’m absolutely sure that will be the great moral debate as we become closer to creating artificial life that’s almost identical to people.
I say this as we open up the journal topic to “tradition” and what do they mean? Do they still sever a purpose? Are they still a necessity? Or is this a gray area where there are some traditions that we should cling to and some we should agree let go?
My family and I have a tradition every Saturday morning; I make French Toast for my wife and kids while they begin to wake up. Over coffee I plan the weekend, check out my website’s forum for any threads that need help, and decide if we need to make any trips to get materials from Target and Home Depot for projects around the house.
Every-other Friday – “Pay Day” for our family – We indulge in Chinese food from one of our favorite restaurants which varies from time to time. If there’s a new one that opens along the route my wife takes to get home, she’ll stop there and order take out. It’s another family tradition to find new favorites.
Another tradition we have is doing something special for the member of the family who is celebrating a birthday. First we have the annual trip to The Mystic Aquarium on my oldest son’s birthday. For my youngest son’s birthday we go to Welles Beach in Maine, while the tradition for my birthday usually has something to with Astronomy or Space Exploration. One year we went to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center where we enjoyed the planetarium shows and the kids bought me some rubber replicas of vintage space craft. The tradition for my wife’s birthday varies since October is such a busy month for all of us. We’ll just buy a couple bottles of wine and have a big fancy dinner.
These traditions help us celebrate how important we are to each other. We like to indulge in activities that are very special to the member of our family who has the birthday, as if to say that not only are you special but the things that are special to you are important to us as well.
These traditions are important for our children to add more structure to their lives, the find comfort in the predictability. They know that when it’s a specific day of the week a specific thing will happen. When it’s a specific day of the year, specific events will happen on those days, as well. These family traditions help soften the blow of our chaotic lives that occur through-out the week and the school year, they can rely on the structure we give them on the weekend and special occasions.
There are other traditions with-in societies that are important to people for the same reason, to provide structure. We call these events ‘Rites Of Passage.” When people reach a specific age specific things happen to them. When you reach 5 years old, you go to school for the first time the following September.
When a young man reaches 18 years of age he has to register for the draft, while men and women at that age are able to participate in other aspects of adulthood like voting and are able to make decisions on their own. In America you’re a full-fledged adult and can legally drink alcoholic beverages.
There are some traditions that still add structure to our lives but I’m not sure if we should continue to honor them. To celebrate the birth of the Christian Savor and Son of God, we drag a cut evergreen tree into our homes and decorate it before putting gifts underneath them on the night of December 24th to be opened the morning of December 25th and play “make-believe” that a fat magician dressed in red and white from the North Pole brought them with the aid of flying reindeer and pointy-ear midgets.
Another pagan tradition with a Christian name is “Easter,” we celebrate the resurrection of the aforementioned Savor and Son of God who was punished for telling everyone who he was and how wonderful the world would be if we were all nicer to each other… punished by being nailed to a piece of wood and stabbed in the gut with a spear. We celebrate Christ’s resurrection by painting hardboiled eggs and hiding them with candy around the house or the yard and lie to our children that another mystical creature – this time a sentient rabbit – did this.
Later in the year we celebrate the signing of a piece of paper declaring our independence from an oppressive country while at the same time oppressing other people of color from yet another region of the world by sending colorful rockets into the sky and watch them blow up. The exclamation of “ooohs” and “ahhhs” might seem compulsory but are in fact optional.
These two traditions seem normal to most people in the western world but if we had to explain them to aliens from another planet or the same aforementioned Christian savor, they might think our “traditions” are examples of mass insanity.
My personal tradition is asking if these and other traditions are necessary. Do we really need to perpetuate the fantasy of magical creatures bring gifts and candy to children who steal the credit from the loving parents who are doing all the work? Especially when these magical fantasy beings have about as much to do with the Christian historical events as I do with the intergalactic trafficking of contraband literature to third-world planets.
Also troubling is the responses I receive when I ask others about why we do what we do; “because it’s tradition.” When asked about the origin of these traditions, I’m surprised when there are few genuine answers beyond “it’s just the way it is.”
How much of the genuine suffering exists in the world because of tradition and “that’s just the way it is?” How many people hate other groups because of tradition? How much of our time and resources are devoted to a tradition when there is no true genuine joy? I believe that in this age of social media and interactivity we need to re-evaluate why we do what we do and maybe there are some traditions that need to be laid to rest, not just the prohibition on homosexual martial unions of clitoral circumcision in Middle Eastern but some of the ridiculous rituals associated with legitimate holidays.
We’ve reached beyond the reach of the guilt from our elders and now it’s time to ask, “Why do it if there’s no benefit.” I sure don’t want my grandchildren and their children to come to celebrate “Space Exploration and Astronomy Day” on July 23 without remembering the reason why. If any tradition doesn’t offer structure and unity to a group, it’s time to let it go.