Well, I’m behind. But I took up this challenge in the middle of a move and between packing/unpacking boxes, lugging my pregnant self around (think tomato on stilts) and spending hours on the phone with various customer service lines to initiate service and/or disconnect service, I fell behind. But today I’m back to discuss our next topic of reconciliation,
Tradition has two tastes in my mouth. On one hand, tradition tastes like holidays and birthdays. It means the fire pit in the backyard. It means Christmas morning and cranberry sauce. Tradition is sweet. On the other hand, tradition (maybe tradition-al) tastes stodgy. Uptight and unbending. Formal. Boring. Maybe even lifeless. Tradition is mush.
Whether we are discussing tradition in the sweet way (eating red velvet cupcakes on your birthday) or the mushy way (going for a daily jog), I believe tradition is vital.
Somewhere in the yearly, semi-yearly, weekly, and even daily rituals is where heaven and earth kiss. It’s where the magic happens. Sometimes we can clearly sense it. Other times we can hardly notice it. And yet, it is there all the same.
Whether it’s the same cup of coffee we have every morning or the turkey we only have on Thanksgiving, it’s magic. It’s easier to see the magic when it comes once a year. It’s much harder to spot the magic in our everyday routine. But do not be fooled, the magic that exists in the dance between heaven and earth, the blending between the spiritual and material, is there all the same. But I believe we often neglect the magic and instead focus our attention on one or the other, more often than not, just heaven. In removing ourselves from earthly concerns, I believe we actually have removed ourselves from the important concerns.
We (of all people) should celebrate tradition with the most joy. As trite as Christmas lights or birthday cake in a world gone wrong, may seem, they are the material reminders of that which is immaterial. We are artists and the earth is our canvas. As we pursue the spiritual world, we are not called to stop painting. We are called to paint even better.
This isn’t going to look the same for everyone and that is a good thing. How boring would it be if we all made the same art? Not all of us are into decking the halls or baking cakes but all of us can institute little traditions. Engage your senses. Allow the smell of pine, the water wet on your toes, the sound of music, the birthday candles and the taste of your favorite desert linger. It is much easier to rush through the tradition and miss the magic. It is just as easy to disengage from tradition and ignore the magic.
I think this is especially true of everyday life. Some days just aren’t magical. Some days suck the life from our hearts. It would cause us much harm to ignore this harsh reality and pretend as though everyday were special. The everyday isn’t special. The morning routine, the rush to eat dinner, our ever growing to-do lists aren’t special. They aren’t like cranberry sauce and cocktails. They are like oatmeal and the gym. Toothpaste and freeways. They are the everyday.
And yet I think the magic of tradition can be found in these everyday things too. It might not be the same kind of magic we experience on our birthday. It may not feel like anything special is taking place. But they too are part of our art here on earth. They too are reminders of that which is true. Our humanity. Our earthyness.
The easy way out is to live as though none of this earthyness matters, to scoff at others who are knee deep in the everyday concerns. To separate yourself from the mess here on earth and instead strive after some “higher form of spirituality.” It’s much easier to read your books, engage with people who are like-minded and stay comfortable. But it’s the courageous artist who acknowledges his calling to engage in the material world and is faithful to seek the magic in tradition. In the holidays and the Mondays. In the wedding receptions and the office work.
I think tradition serves to remind us of that which matters, both the spiritual and the physical. Both the secular and the sacred. Both fighting poverty and taco eating. It’s easy to see the magic, when you’re in deep. It’s easier to feel the magic in special moments. It’s much harder to engage in the mundane and dare to look for something with meaning. Chances are, it’s there. It’s just much harder to find. Not all magic is special. Some magic is rather grey.