Monday, September 1, 2014

Meaning in Tradition

Continuing my series on reflections on meaning, I want to consider the idea of tradition. Last week, I talked about the limited value I've increasingly seen in church services. I've reflected before that I have trouble understanding why people continue singing songs that sound like funeral dirges with affect that matches. Extreme structure and routine that is devoid of passion just doesn't strike me as compelling.

However, what seems to be a driving force for many is tradition. In various settings, I've heard people talk about being motivated to engage in an activity that others have done for decades, centuries, or millennia. Sometimes it's about doing the same thing others are doing at the same time around the globe. I find the latter more compelling because it emphasizes global unity, which is significant in many ways.

For one reason or another, I just have never been able to experience meaning or emotion connected to tradition. I've come to really appreciate some of the more historical images and processes, but not because of tradition; because of knowing that each element of an icon is intentionally placed and means something. But structuring a service or singing a particular song because others have done it before us just isn't compelling to me.

Maybe it goes back to my sense of meaning needing a relational and/or transformational quality. I just don't see either happening attached to tradition for the sake of tradition. That doesn't mean tradition is bad, but sometimes we can get too rigidly attached to it because that's how we've always done it. Perhaps there's a more effective or meaningful way...

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