Where We Used to Live Isn’t

In the comments to previous post on Traditionalism Oscar astutely posted video of Jordan Peterson, whose talks further spurred me in this direction of thought [1]. It’s one of many in which he talks about his theory that–mythically–it is the duty of a “son” to resurrect a “dead father” by rescuing tradition from irrelevance. I’ve listened to his theory over a dozen times in various videos and podcasts, and I understand him to mean something like synthesis. Emotionally, it is a pleasing concept to think that the son–The New–has a duty to salvage the father–The Old–, yet put his own spin on it.

But it strikes me as trite…and also that the symbolism is fundamentally misleading. The father isn’t tradition. The father is the source of truth and goodness and love and authority. Tradition is no more a father than the buildings I grew up in are my dad.

[1] I can’t say where I’ll end up. These are my thoughts, and implicit requests for conversation.

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30 thoughts on “Where We Used to Live Isn’t

  1. Expanding the analogy of your traditions being like buildings… What then would help you bring back a tangible memory of your father – a sterile but cool, modern environment, or something with rich leather, books, tools, etc. with a slight smoky smell and furniture matching his aesthetic? Obviously assuming some stuff here, but I imagine you can see the point. You are right, that tradition is like the building, not the Father itself. But the traditions are what allow us to have a more tangible experience in getting to know the Father. We don’t worship the traditions (hopefully), but we use them as a way to enhance our worship.

  2. (and obviously I’m taking a liberty here equating religious traditionalism with secular traditionalism, but the point stands on its own – I think you can live in the modern environment, but in a way that calls back to what made the generations before work well)

  3. Tradition’s been on my mind a lot recently, which is one reason why I’ve been listening to Jordan Peterson. I haven’t reached a conclusion, but I’m a lot more amiable to the positive role of tradition than I was in my youth, which is probably typical.

  4. I can’t see how most traditions can survive in a world that is constantly changing. Back when technology was slow to progress, traditions were slow to change. Traditions dies quickly now that technology has changed at an unbelievable fast rate.

    Eternal Truth is just that, eternal and something we should always cling as best we can but traditions are not necessarily Eternal Truth

  5. Cane.

    I’m working on it. I think there are good reasons to critique “traditionalism.” I have been thinking the same things you are clearly exploring here.

    I’ll do a post but I will probably email/etc first.,

  6. @Oscar

    Last year someone linked to his interview on the Joe Rogan podcast. That started me on a tear of listening to his videos while at work. Over the Christmas break I bought his Self Authoring suite for myself and a friend of mine who I thought could use it. I like a lot of what he has to say.

    He frequently talks about the myth of the old being resurrected by the new, and it just doesn’t jive for me, for reasons that I mostly explained in the OP. I don’t think he’s totally off-base though. It’s probably down to the merit that he gives old pagan stories; which he treats just as real as the recorded history contained in the Bible. Obviously I think that is a mistake in itself, but especially in that one has to warp Christ’s story to make it jive with Marduk, Baldur, Pinocchio, etc. The Christian knows that it’s not God who died, but man.

  7. @ Cane

    Years ago, I arrived at the conclusion that young men are supposed to push the boundaries, and old men are supposed to preserve the past, that both are essential functions, and that some time in middle age we begin transitioning from one role to the other. Which is probably why I’ve been giving tradition so much thought lately.

    That’s probably not what Peterson means, and frankly, I don’t understand his thesis all that well.

    So far, I think that tradition for its own sake is harmful, but traditions that preserve and pass on eternal truths are very good things.

    The problem seems to be that those who adhere to traditions neglect to explain the “why” behind the traditions, so young people ask, “why am I doing this?” If the answer they get amounts to “because I said so”, chances are that young people will think “well, screw this noise”, and quickly drop that tradition – and the eternal truth it was meant to transmit – as soon as they’re no longer under their parents’ authority.

    Anyway, those are my disorganized, half-formed thoughts so far. I’m muddling through this like many others.

  8. Depends on what kind of traditions you’re talking about, and what the purpose of them is trying to achieve.

    Many of the traditions we are handed down these days are simply habits that the last few generations had a positive opinion of and kept solely on that basis. Thats not a tradition, but an opinion with an associated habit.

    A tradition is a practice handed down solely on its basis of being able to reliably engender a desired outcome. This could be virtue, character, or simply a good way to do tasks as simple as when/how to sow a field. Obviously the highest purpose of traditions are to train someone how to live a life of devotion to God and worship Him.

    Most “traditionals” don’t understand the distinction between the first and the second – and base their decisions on which habits they prefer simply based on personal opinion and preferences. Those aren’t proper traditions. The proper tradition would be picked in order to achieve a specific goal, which in relation to worship of God will likely be the least pleasurable (at first) because the person is at the beginning of the path of death of self and building the requisite virtues needed in order to habitually pursue the goal of the tradition.

    Will there need to be changes based on the modern realities? Yes, when due cause is there. For example, I don’t say the Angelus at 6, noon, and 6 because I’m not a farmer or day laborer whose day is broken up by the same events. But the prayer was propogated and the practice came about in order to habituate the soul to the joy and an act of loyalty to Christ as King. If you do it because you like it, prefer it, etc; you’re searching for tradition in the wrong manner.

  9. @Scott

    I look forward to it.

    @Oscar

    Years ago, I arrived at the conclusion that young men are supposed to push the boundaries, and old men are supposed to preserve the past, that both are essential functions, and that some time in middle age we begin transitioning from one role to the other.

    I’m not convinced those impulses are correct. I don’t think “keep my commandments” is the same as “preserve the past”. As translated in the ESV, St. Paul twice positively speaks about traditions (1 Corinthians and 2 Thessalonians). I both cases, the things which are referred to as tradition are 90% about seeing/observing/judging–paying attention–correctly and responding accordingly [1] and 10% about specific actions (headcoverings, communion at church, etc.)

    @Chad

    Many of the traditions we are handed down these days are simply habits that the last few generations had a positive opinion of and kept solely on that basis. Thats not a tradition, but an opinion with an associated habit.

    A tradition is a practice handed down solely on its basis of being able to reliably engender a desired outcome.

    The only difference between these definitions is whether or not the holders of the positive opinions verbally or scripturally (lowercase s) expressed reasons for their habit.

    [1] Jordan Peterson emphasizes the importance of observing and responding in many of his talks. It was this emphasis on paying attention that made me a fan of him. “Pay attention” is such a great phrase. It’s like an investment, or the cost to buy a treasure map.

    44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

  10. @ Cane

    “I don’t think ‘keep my commandments’ is the same as ‘preserve the past’.”

    I didn’t mean to imply that they are, although there can be overlap in this Venn diagram.

    What I meant is that young men innovate, and old men maintain the continuity that keeps families (and thereby cultures) rooted and grounded. What they’re rooted and grounded in differs from culture to culture (and family to family), and of course, the best ground in which to be rooted is the Scriptures.

    There’s a constant tension between the two, but both are necessary, and most cultures are better at one than the other.

    Americans built the most innovative culture in history, but in the process tore out most of the roots.

    Afghans are so thoroughly rooted in the past that inter-clan murders over water rights are still a daily occurrence.

    Scott and I talked about this, and like I said earlier, my thoughts are only half formed, so I’m looking forward to more installments from you and Scott.

  11. @ Cane
    No, there is more to the definition than that. The first is chosen because of the pleasure associated with it and for no other reason. It is effeminate at its core as it is based on weakness of character and virtue.

    The second is something that is done because of the ends attained. It is chosen and cared for despite hardships and lack of preference because the end is good.

    The prayers handed down to us from the Church Fathers are a good example, specifically those to due with virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. They demand a sacrifice of self that is shown to predispose one to the virtue and do so reliably. One can hate the prayer, and doing it anyways is still done as a tradition. One has no choice about what the prayer is, yet passes it on as a good thing that leads to God no matter what individual opinion on it is

  12. @Oscar

    What I meant is that young men innovate, and old men maintain the continuity that keeps families (and thereby cultures) rooted and grounded. What they’re rooted and grounded in differs from culture to culture (and family to family), and of course, the best ground in which to be rooted is the Scriptures.

    There’s a constant tension between the two, but both are necessary, and most cultures are better at one than the other.

    Americans built the most innovative culture in history, but in the process tore out most of the roots.

    I don’t get to be the roots. I just AM a modern American product. However much I want to be the roots or trunk in a tree of tradition doesn’t matter. Life is just way, way different.

    We don’t work at home. Some work from home, but not in a capacity in which our families can participate. We don’t apprentice our sons; they go find work (eventually). We don’t marry off our daughters; they go get married (hopefully). We don’t collect income from our children’s work. We don’t live at or near our own homes and families. We don’t have an ethnicity; we have some ethnicities.

    …We go on vacations.

    Hey, but I started going to an Episcopalian church eight years ago which then split away from TECUSA and now calls itself Anglican! And like the great majority of churches it is effeminate. Sometimes I feel like I’m at a shitty tea-party.

    When I hear someone declare himself traditionalist I get pensive because I know if I point out he’s not then he’s just going to double-down his role-play.

    @Chad

    No, there is more to the definition than that. The first is chosen because of the pleasure associated with it and for no other reason. It is effeminate at its core as it is based on weakness of character and virtue.

    Because what is pleasing is never virtuous?

    The second is something that is done because of the ends attained. It is chosen and cared for despite hardships and lack of preference because the end is good.

    That’s simply not true.

    Weight-lifting isn’t a tradition. Birthday parties are.

  13. Pingback: Turning on moderation later today. | Dalrock

  14. @ Cane

    “We don’t work at home. Some work from home, but not in a capacity in which our families can participate. We don’t apprentice our sons; they go find work (eventually). We don’t marry off our daughters; they go get married (hopefully). We don’t collect income from our children’s work. We don’t live at or near our own homes and families. We don’t have an ethnicity; we have some ethnicities.”

    As usual, you expressed something I’ve been thinking (and talking about) much more eloquently than I could.

    So, the question I’ve been wrestling with (and I know others have as well) is; how do we Christian married fathers transmit to our children the kinds of truths that used* to be transmitted through tradition in a culture where tradition essentially doesn’t exist? How do we provide them with the structure that tradition used to provide?

    * Were those truths effectively transmitted through tradition? I don’t even know!

  15. @Oscar

    * Were those truths effectively transmitted through tradition? I don’t even know!

    Isn’t the fact that you don’t know the answer?

  16. Intresting you don’t feel rooted Cane

    Personally I feel rooted to my people, our blood, soil, faith, traditions. Connected in a 1000 different ways. I look like my grandpaw, smoke the same pipe ny great grandpaw, grandpaw and father smoked. I passed it down to my son when he went to war for the 1st time, like it was passed on before me. My Christmas tree stays up, until we are all home, like my father and his family have done since ww1. I know where my forefathers bodies rest, I know the land that use to be ours before the damnyankees came, I have seen where they fought, here and in Europe. I feel at home in Scotland even if my kin haven’t lived there since the 1700’s. The list goes on and on and still moves me in an emotional way.

    Perhaps the issue is more personal then social/ cultural. As in you did not value your forefathers when you were younger so you don’t feel rooted now.

    ——

    Afghans kill each other over skipping line in the donkey fucking rotation, but it’s a legit point.

    The Bible warns against rote prayers, babbling like heathens, but regular formal church services would probably feel alien to the Disciples and early church father’s. Christ broke bread with the sinners and tax collectors, Rev Bob preaches to 1%. Same thing but different points in timely

  17. @ Cane

    “Isn’t the fact that you don’t know the answer?”

    Not necessarily. It could also mean that by the time I came around, people had abandoned the traditions that (theoretically) transmitted the truth.

    Even a tool that works can’t work if people won’t use it.

  18. Again, I’m not making an assertion here, because I don’t know. Hell, it may not even matter.

    What I’d really like to know is; what is the best way forward?

  19. @Oscar

    Not necessarily. It could also mean that by the time I came around, people had abandoned the traditions that (theoretically) transmitted the truth.

    Even a tool that works can’t work if people won’t use it.

    So traditionalists can’t teach the efficacy of traditionalism?

    What I’d really like to know is; what is the best way forward?

    Aside from what I’ve learned and said about paying attention: I don’t know. Lots of prudential judgments.

    @SFC Ton

    Intresting you don’t feel rooted Cane

    It’s not about what I (or anyone) feel, but what I see.

  20. @ Cane

    “So traditionalists can’t teach the efficacy of traditionalism?”

    As I wrote above, I suspect that they fail to teach the “why” of tradition. Most people naturally desire purpose, and if they receive no purpose other than “because I said so”, or “it’s what we’ve always done”, they tend to become disillusioned and abandon the tradition.

    The military has all kinds of traditions. When I was enlisted, I used to think they were stupid, because when I asked “why”, I usually got “because I said so”, or “it’s what we’ve always done”. As I climbed in rank and started to learn more about the “why” behind those traditions, I began to appreciate them and see their value, and I tried to always explain the “why” to my Soldiers.

    People in authority often fall for this trap. It’s tempting to think that every time a subordinate asks “why do we do this”, that must mean the subordinate is questioning the superior’s authority. Sometimes that is in fact the case. Other times it’s 18-year-old PFC Oscar sincerely trying to understand the purpose behind what he’s doing.

    Considering how often the keepers of military traditions fall for this trap, I suspect that the keepers of other traditions also fall for the same trap.

  21. @Oscar

    The military has all kinds of traditions. When I was enlisted, I used to think they were stupid, because when I asked “why”, I usually got “because I said so”, or “it’s what we’ve always done”. As I climbed in rank and started to learn more about the “why” behind those traditions, I began to appreciate them and see their value

    Can you give me examples? I’m not in the military so I could be clueless, but from my understanding the military has radically changed over the last two hundred years. I know it is radically changing now.

    One example: According the history I’m reading it wasn’t until Napoleon that we got huge standing armies of citizen soldiers. It happened because of the rise of nationalism (in its earliest stages) and also large cities–which happened because of increased trade due to technological innovations in travel (ships) and finance (national banks). Napoleon’s success forced the hands of the other European countries and ultimately ended the practice of relatively small professional armies paid from the royal treasury, and supplemented with mercenary companies; which had been the predominate model since the end of the Middle Ages.

    There are a lot of these kinds of huge changes in recent military history; changes so big and so complete that we can hardly step back and properly see them. The same is true for every corner of life.

  22. Considering how often the keepers of military traditions fall for this trap, I suspect that the keepers of other traditions also fall for the same trap.

    I suspect that the keepers of tradition can lose the “why” of the tradition, which is the first step towards their deadening and decay.

    I find this aspect frustrating because I want to be told what to do and to adopt the tradition, but those weren’t passed down to me. I have huge gaps where no one taught me what I was supposed to do, let alone why. If I were smarter, I’d have picked up more by osmosis, but that still doesn’t get to the “why”.

    Thank God for the Bible, but that doesn’t cover much of the interpersonal/intersexual. Am very thankful for finding these Christian red pill blogs and Vox Populi, because those are giving me guidance where I lacked. It’s a leadership gap of sorts. For want of vision, the people perish.

  23. Again I see people rooted in ways they probaly don’t understand themselves. 4th generation farmers, 3rd generation running horses, guys who joint he military because their father did so, deer hunting because grandpaw taught them, fly the Stars and Bars because they are from the South and proud. Won’t move towns for better work because their kin isn’t in the new town.

  24. I’m not disagreeing with you on the macro level, but at the same time I don’t see the problem being large scale as you seem to

    Plus the nation was destroyed and remade several times and things are still shaking out from the various upheavals

  25. @ Cane

    You’re right about the huge changes in the military, but that’s part of the point. Tradition is supposed to keep people rooted through those changes. Ceremonies and rituals are supposed to give people a feeling of being connected to the people who came before them despite the gulf created by time and the changes that took place during that time.

    For example, I commanded a company in the 1st Engineer Battalion, which is the oldest, most decorated engineer battalion in the US Army (guess how often we repeated that phrase). Every time we had a battalion event, we conducted a ceremony in which we honored distinguished members of the battalion, which SFC Ton will be happy to know includes Robert E. Lee.

    Granted, the US Army hasn’t been around very long, because the US hasn’t been around very long. I once served with a British unit that claimed to trace its lineage back to Roman Britania (no, I can’t verify that).

    The connection those rituals create with people in the past can’t be quantified, but you can feel it when you’re in a group of people who take it seriously, and that feeling does make a difference. It’s also true that some units do it better than others. I also think the Marine Corps tends to take it more seriously and do it better than the Army.

    @ Sir Hamster

    “I suspect that the keepers of tradition can lose the ‘why’ of the tradition, which is the first step towards their deadening and decay.

    I find this aspect frustrating because I want to be told what to do and to adopt the tradition, but those weren’t passed down to me.”

    I think you’re right, and I suspect – at the risk of arrogance – that smarter people tend to find it more frustrating than less intelligent people, because smarter people are more likely to ask “why”, and are less likely to be satisfied with doing something for which they don’t understand the purpose.

    By the way, all this talk of tradition reminds me of Tevye. “I’ll tell you why we always wear our hats. I don’t know. But it’s a tradition!”

  26. Nice Oscar

    I haven’t said much about military tradition because I never could settle the issue in my own mind.

    A ton if it is simply kept around to give officers and senior nco’s an ego stroke, some of it i really loved, mostly stuff lIke our toasts at formal events, the battle history of the 75th infantry regiment, and the cav stuff when I had a platoon of 19d’s. After getting busted up I pulled a small string to serve in the same battalion my father and grandfather served. Which meet 0 resistance once folks knew why I wanted to make the move

    Yet the more special I became, the more tradtional stuff got in the way of training for / or going out to killi, kidnap, steal shit and break stuff. Even the rank structure would get flipped with NCO’s running teams and officers being in a subordinate role

    I reckon my willingness to shed a lot if things others want to cling to is the realization how hostile most institutions have become to God fearing White men and our ways

  27. Hey Cane, have you given much thought on how immigration, the war on tribalism/ entho nationalism, integration/ desegregation etc has played a part in destroying traditional folk ways/ lead to smaller families and the like?

  28. Pingback: But Mostly Cars Drive | Things that We have Heard and Known

  29. @ SFC Ton says:
    March 24, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    “Yet the more special I became, the more tradtional stuff got in the way of training for / or going out to killi, kidnap, steal shit and break stuff. Even the rank structure would get flipped with NCO’s running teams and officers being in a subordinate role”

    That’s the tension between tradition and innovation. They’re diametrically opposed to each other, and yet they’re both necessary.

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