Religion and tradition—opiate and analgesic?

ADDICTIVE TRADITION 
If religion is the opiate of the people, tradition is an even more sinister analgesic, simply because it rarely appears sinister. 

If religion is a tight band, a throbbing vein, and a needle, tradition is a far homelier concoction: poppy seeds ground into tea; a sweet cocoa drink laced with cocaine; the kind of thing your grandmother might have made.
—Zadie Smith

I have given up worshipping in a church. I have a faith and I have a spiritual practice but my church has no walls, it is wherever I am and it’s most solid in the natural spaces around me. I chose my alternate path because I don’t like dogma and I don’t like being ‘preached’ to by other mere mortals who profess to be superior because of their faith and because they worship in a church.

Everyone sins, some of my ‘sins’ have been more obvious than other people’s. I grew up in the catholic faith and had a child out of wedlock at 18. Didn’t that cause a stir for years to come. Funny too, I was judged for it years and years later, by a family whose religious convictions were very strong until their daughter, the youngest, fell pregnant while still at school. Not a word was breathed about the sin in that.

Tradition is interesting. What tradition are we talking here? The tradition of wearing blue or maroon during the State of Origin series? Having roast turkey on Thanksgiving? Or the traditions associated with initiations, such as the sculling six cans of beer at a party through a hole in the bottom of the can, a naked beach run?

I actually don’t think it’s so much the tradition but the adherence and expectation of adherence to tradition that is the problem. I remember when I said I was no longer buying Christmas gifts for my family. There were some high emotions. I was looked at like I was obscene. I might have dropped a turd in the middle of the living room floor for all the looks of disgust I received.  I was no longer interested in a token effort at playing happy families. My family rarely spoke to me or included me in gatherings (admitteldy I made it very hard for them to love me at the time). I thought it was time to get real. Why give a gift to someone when you really can’t stand them, why uphold a societal norm when you think and feel otherwise? I guess in some ways my action was forcing others to act in congruence with their feelings and it was uncomfortable, exposing.

I see a grim side of tradition where people are trapped in a situation or, worse still, where bad behaviours occur but no one is willing to stand up and say no or put an end to the behaviour.

An interesting thought to ponder. There is so much more, I’ve barely scratched the surface. Thank you Zadie Smith, your words are glinting, grabbibg my attention and causing my mind to turn somersaults. I like it.

 

Advertisements