Posts tagged ‘Quakers’

“Breaking Tradition” is Redundant

This is Part 2 of Modernity vs. Tradition in the Topics in Polytheism series. The previous part was about the concept of Modernity.

When I see historically informed Pagans & polytheists talking about breaking with tradition, or reclaiming/going back to tradition or being a traditionalist, they really need to clarify what they mean. Which tradition, how do you define what it is, or is it really just your projected idealized concept of Ye Olden Days? Which parts of Ye Olden Days, be they real or imagined are you trying to revive? An ecological matriarchy? Feudalism & monarchy? Gender roles & family structures? Food & clothing and other necessities that you & your village grew & made yourselves? Which parts of postmodern life & thought are you considering to be not authentically spiritual/culturally pure enough in the Decline/Decadent/Degenerate Formerly Great White West?

It’s OK if there’s some romanticism and nostalgia mixed in with other motivations, I admit that’s the case for myself. It’s just important that we admit it & examine our biases critically. I’ve long ago accepted that my religious-cultural reclamation and revival projects would always entail a long list of problematic faves. Every individual and group will need to decide what we are comfortable with, and where we draw the lines.

Even before we talk specifically about polytheistic religions, just with my cultural upbringing there are so many layers of tradition broken long before I was born, and my inherited culture is a patchwork quilt, as it is with most other Americans, and many of them inherit far more frayed and tattered quilts than I do, many with the trauma of colonialism, genocide, slavery and war.

Many people who started the country in the first place wanted to return to an idealized & likely non-existent original pure version of Christianity. Or they were radicals trying to break away from traditional social/economic/political structures. Or some combination of the two, like the Quakers.

There’s being from the Western United States specifically, having that conscious sense of being different from the East, a tendency towards informality, it’s an accelerated version of some general American tendencies of rugged individualism. It reminds me a lot of the assumptions certain American Heathens make about self-reliance, like they are project Thoreau back into the Eddas. Many of those notions are in fact, quite wrong, lots of collaboration was needed between pioneers and yes sometimes with American Indians- most of such interactions were negative, but some were positive or at least neutral. Likewise, an individual surviving on their own in Viking Era Scandinavia is highly unlikely, in fact abandoning criminals in wilderness was a standard punishment. I think what they really mean is a local community striving towards self-sufficiency and each person pulling their own weight. But I’m not Heathen so I won’t further try to decode their intent.

At any rate, as the child of liberal Baby Boomers from long assimilated families, most traditions are long gone and not passed down to me. Even in the case of both sets of my grandparents, several of them moved or had parents that had moved from another part of the country (or in my grandfather’s case, from Canada) so their roots in the area weren’t very deep. And all of them had the major disruption of World War II. Much as we Yanks might idealize how much easier it would’ve been to have been born or raised in the lands of our gods’ origins, for most Europeans of course both World Wars were huge disruptions that caused huge changes in what even Americans think of as “European-ness” and related ethnic nostalgia. Not that it’s really one big cultural blob, but just for simplicity’s sake. So we’ve all inherited different sets of mis-matched cultural & spiritual furniture and dishes.

Relevant older posts of mine for additional context/clarification:

Reconstructionism and American Culture

Authenticity: What’s Traditional Anyway?

September 14, 2018 at 12:02 am 1 comment

Chalica & Charity

I found a different approach to Chalica that I liked. It’s the newly invented UU holiday, consisting of lighting a chalice (or 7 chalices) for 7 nights in the first week of December in honor of each of the 7 Principles of UUism– in case you just “tuned in” to my blog. This Mom shares many different holiday traditions with her kids, and often will acknowledge the first day of a multi-day observance (Chalica, Hannukah, Las Posadas) and discuss it with them over a special meal. I’ve seen various suggestions of simple things to do that tie in with the 7 principles, but if you are trying to do actual volunteer work that would be tricky to schedule all in one week! So instead she suggests spreading Chalica out– doing four different acts of charity that relate to the First Principle- “We light our chalice for the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” in December, and then continuing to do that for the other principles in the following months from January thru June.

Since I have a lot more free time than money, I was already thinking of trying to do some volunteer work during December as gifts to my communities. Many charities and non-profits also get frustrated that the Thanksgiving & Yuletide generosity burst peters out, meaning very lean times in summer for many families. After you go thru the 7 principles in whatever manner you choose, you can do more stuff and relate to other values you find meaningful- the Kwanzaa principles, the Beatitudes, the Quaker Testimonies, polytheist virtues and so forth. It’s important to clarify that while the 7 principles are guide us, but they are not a creed or an entire system of ethics. Maybe this isn’t really Chalica so much as a plan for how live out your Unitarian Universalist values!

While poking around old Pagan/polytheist posts about Yule vs. Consumermas- I found this very insightful comment from PSVL (Lupus for short) “One of the things that is really starting to rankle on me in terms of the overculture’s overconsumption at this time of year is the entire phenomenon of “Toys for Tots.” While the people doing it have good intentions, if someone’s family is so poor that they can’t afford toys for their children at Christmas, then there’s something wrong that is much worse than that their children have no toys, and that therefore because they have no toys they will have “no joy” at this time of year. The thousands of dollars spent on toys in these efforts–toys that will often be broken, forgotten, or lost in a year–could be better spent on money for basic food for the needy throughout December. Occasionally, in the “wish list” things that needy families put out, with children and teenagers asking for something, one finds “I’d like a bed” or “I’d like some sheets and blankets.” That is something that I think should be encouraged, not “I want an MP3 player or a Nintendo Wii.”

I do think children need toys- but frankly throughout history, most of the time non-aristocratic children just made their own toys. Toymaking as a craft or industry is pretty recent. Heck, so is the concept of childhood! What is important though, is that children have safe items to play with that stimulate their imagination, creativity and help them learn about and explore our world in a developmentally appropriate way (based on individual child, not the age of the child). Often-times low-tech *and durable* is better. Building toys. Dolls & action figures (for all genders) that don’t need batteries, the kid gets to imagine what they can do *without* batteries.  One of the funnest “toys” when I was a kid was a big refrigerator box! This makes me sound like a mean grown-up, but buying kids what they say they want isn’t necessarily the greatest idea. Is it really what they will spend a lot of time enjoying and get a lot out of? Or is it just the most advertised toy that all their peers seemingly have, so they have to have it!

Unity Unitarian Church has a “Mitten Tree” each year, that people can add articles of warm clothing to (including our Uknitarian club!) We also collect- not just in winter but throughout the year, personal care items (small shampoo bottles) clothing, money for bus passes and other things to help people who are coming out of prison and returning to society to help them out as part of the Amicus Reconnect program. Many other places of worship, schools, non-profits (both religious & secular) have similar programs.

November 22, 2014 at 12:21 am Leave a comment


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