As one holiday season comes to a close (my inherited Indian traditions) and another one draws nearer (my adoptedm American traditions), I find myself in a somewhat unique positon to compare and contrast the two. At every major Indian festival, I am reminded of some of the traditions of my parents, grandparents, friends and extended family that I grew up with before I moved to the USA. I do have to admit that their color fades ever so imperceptibly over the years.
Over the three decades that I have lived in the USA, I have created a few (holiday) traditions (of my own), to blend with the ones that I inherited. I do have to admit that it is a lot of work to create new, sustainable and meaningful traditions. Only time will tell how these newly created traditions will stand up to the test of our increasingly mobile and fluid landscape of friendships and relationships.
Traditions need not be exclusively associated with holidays, festivals and celebrations. As I evaluate the traditions that have stuck with me the longest, a few salient qualities come to the fore. The ones that have stood the test of space and time are those that promote simplicity, purity, cleanliness and respect in action. I observe them not for tradition’s sake, but because they make a meaningful, positive impact on the quality of my everyday life.
The tradition of silence with which my grandparents went about their daily business, without any fuss or complaint, inspires me to do the same. The reverence that my mother held for cleanliness in all her actions was often the subject of friendly banter – nobody could drink from her mug of tea, use her pillow or blanket, bring shoes into her kitchen, or… you get the idea – and yet it became a tradition in purity that many of us now observe with a smile. Have you inherited any ‘quirks’ of your parents and grandparents that have now become ‘traditions’ for you?
Perhaps the greatest value of traditions is in their ability to lend some measure of consistency and stability to our life-systems. As we face new, and often unforeseen, challenges, we can lean on our traditions for support. At the same time, it is prudent for us to ask questions of, to challenge those traditions that may be past their ‘use-by’ date in our life. How is any meaningful social, economic and spiritual change going to be effected if we calcify our hearts in the name of ‘tradition’?
Hence, the notion of ‘challenging traditions’. They create some challenges. The need/want to pass on and share as many of our inherited traditions. The need/want to let go, with love, of the ones that create more problems than they solve. The need/want to create some new ones with our new neighbors, friends and family. Can you think of any more challenges associated with ‘traditions’?
In closing, I invite you to share your thoughts on ‘challenging traditions’ with us in #SpiritChat on twitter – Sunday, November 12th at 9amET/2pmUTC/730pmIST. We will continue our ‘tradition’ of conversation over tea and cookies in the virtual world. Namaste,
P.S. As I write this, it is a beautiful Saturday afternoon in November. November 11th, to be exact. Armistice Day. Remembrance Day. Veterans Day. A day that marks a traditional, solemn observance of respect and gratitude for those who have fought and served to preserve, promote and promulgate the freedom(s) of many. This is one tradition that is surely worth keeping. Thank you, Veterans!
My walks in the forest are developing into a newly created ‘morning’ tradition for me…