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Is Tradition Worth It?

April 8, 2011

Often, we subject to ourselves to traditions and customs that don’t really make sense. Sometimes, these are seemingly strange actions, yet other times, they just become inconvenient, uncomfortable, and annoying.

After hearing Mill’s testimony that tradition should be pushed aside and subjected to reasoning and logic, I feel it necessary to look at some of the things I do on a daily, weekly, or yearly basis, and ask myself if these traditions are worth it?

Many of these customs, however, cannot simply be dropped and walked away from. In our current society, defying many of these basic societal norms would almost be suicide. For example: What’s the point of dressing up and being uncomfortable when attending a funeral. I understand that you are giving the family your respect, but what about the family themselves? I know when I have had people pass away, I’d much rather show up in sweatpants and a hoody. How would I then be perceived? Would that be disrespectful only because in our society it would be deemed just that?

I’m notsure, but that’s why Icontinue to put on  the suit and give my respects.

This is just one example that I thought seemed unreasonable, but how many others make absolutely no sense? Religious traditions, like in Judaism throwing bread into water or spinning   a chicken around your head. In the Persian tradition, throwing money in the air and watching as all the children run around, almost like beggars, grabbing as much as they can. Why does Lebron James throw powder in the air before every game? Wouldn’t his hands get to powdery and just cause a mess?

What about tradition is so important that we feel the need to throw out logical reasoning to perform these unconventional tasks and customs?

Is it similar to when our parents used to say, “Just because I said so,” and we should just leave some of these seemingly dim-witted traditions at that? Should we look for ways to better these traditions? Or should we try overhauling them and starting new, reasonable ones?

2 Comments
  1. Pierre Gerondeau permalink
    April 9, 2011 10:34 PM

    This was a very interesting post. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with tradition, as long as people have good reasons for doing what they are doing, and can back up their claims with evidence. The traditions that you mentioned in your post seem innocent enough, more like superstition. They are not doing anything wrong, so they should be allowed to continue. Tradition is also very interesting in how it relates to Michigan, which prides itself on tradition. I think tradition is good if people know what they are being traditional about, and one of the things that makes Michigan great is that it holds itself to standards that have been set high for a long time. However, traditions, such as the women being inferior to men, are not good, as they are not based on evidence. Women are just as smart and qualified as men for jobs, and should not be discriminated against or thought of as inferior in the workplace. In this case, just because most old societies though of women as inferior, they should not be thought of as inferior today.

  2. mstranseth permalink
    April 12, 2011 1:54 AM

    Tradition is fine if it does not impede on progress. Sometimes tradition is there to simply keep alive certain histories and social norms of an institution. Why do we here at U of M continue to paint the rock, knowing that in a few days (or even hours) that our creations will be painted over? Because it has always been done and there is nothing wrong with it. Your suit example is interesting, especially since certain churches are becoming more relaxed with formal dress wear during services. Many people still wear suits, but just as many wear jeans and a polo or even jeans and a t-shirt to service. However if we wouldn’t dress up for God why would we dress up for a graduation, or a funeral?

    I think its about honor. Societies have always had some style of formal wear, that is worn only when something needs to be honored or respected greatly. God is certainly something (to those who believe at least) that needs to be honored, but more progressive people have taken the stance that God loves them no matter what, so forget the tie. At a funeral however, you are honoring someones life, either a loved one or a friend, and for some reason we might hold that to a higher standard of dress than service. Strange isn’t it?

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