Jacob L. Moreno introduced the phrase cultural conserve to describe anything that has the effect of preserving valuable cultural memories, such as skills, discoveries, concepts, or moral values. Culture is conserved by culture carriers, that is, those who carry something forward from one generation to the next.
One way culture is conserved is tradition. Tradition is acknowledging that I have a history. Tradition is acknowledging that for hundreds and hundreds of years before I existed, people existed before me. Those people, like me, wanted to flourish and to a large degree wanted to promote human flourishing.
To promote human flourishing they created customs and beliefs, created or accumulated tools, and bought and maintained property. Some of these things were woven into tradition as a remembrance of something good or noble. Some of these things were woven into tradition as a warning or reminder that some things are bad. These traditions are what make my most intimate community. It is the songs we sing, the dances we dance, the food we eat, and the way we support and care for one another.
To break with tradition is a contemplative act. To some extent, I have to say to myself and others that I have figured something out or been enlightened in some way that they were not. Rather than an act of hubris, breaking with tradition is an act of humility. It is saying to the many that came before me that I somehow got it more right than they did.
But for there to be a place for tradition, culture carriers have to do just that. Culture carriers have to meaningfully examine which parts of the culture, which traditions, they will carry forward into the next generation. To refuse to carry forward no culture is to unhinge from the generations upon generations that did carry forward their part for human flourishing. It is choosing unnecessary suffering and death for this generation.
There is a place for tradition. To choose tradition does not mean that we have to keep the bad along with the good. We can choose to carry forward the tradition that promotes human flourishing and leave the rest to history.
It was unseasonally cold this morning so I put on the socks Eason gave me.
The story of the socks started with a summer phone call. I answered. It was Eason.
“Hey Brandon, what size shoes do you wear?”
“10, sometimes 10 and a-half,” I replied.
“Great! Talk to you later,” Eason said and hung up.
It was a typical phone call with Eason. Our friendship had transcended pleasantries. I did puzzle on why he wanted to know my shoes size, but I soon forgot about it and moved on with the next phone call, the next paper, the next person.
That Christmas Eve, my doorbell rang. When I opened the door Eason handed me a Bass Pro Shop sack and exclaimed, “Merry Christmas!” Not a gift bag. A sack. And in the bottom of the sack were three pairs of Redhead socks. Eason was almost giddy to let me know that the socks have a lifetime warranty.
I am certain that Eason discovered the socks while looking for duck hunting gear. They are warm like socks you would want in a duck blind and comfortable like socks you can wear for hours without complaint.
Eason died many years ago now. I have taken advantage of the warranty and replaced the original socks twice. No wonder, I wear them during all the cold months. My wife and daughter wear them on really cold days. What a gift!
I want to leave a sock legacy. Like Eason, I want to leave something for others that is protective and comforting. Something that, once given, will last them the entirety of their life.
A person is made up of three parts. The mind, the heart, and the body. The mind represents thinking which is unseen. The heart in the body represents the affections that are unseen. The body represents the appetites that are unseen.
A life mastered by the appetites ends in morbid obesity, addiction, incarceration, and loneliness. This is not a good life.
A life mastered by thinking seems right but — in the end — is foolish.
A good life is aligning thinking and appetites to serve the affections.
For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in [a]Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead … 1 Cor 1:8-9 NASB
No good deed goes unpunished.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, [b]while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Gal 6: 7-10 NASB
I am second
… for the one that is least among all of you, this is the one who is great. Luke 9:48 NASB
Hate is learned, it has to be taught
But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man… Mathew 15: 18-20 NASB
The day is coming for good men to do bad things.
You will [a]know them by their fruits. [b]Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? Mat. 7:16 NASB
There are those who say fate is something beyond our command. That destiny is not our own, but I know better. Our fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it.” -Merida (Disney)
A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord. Proverbs 19:3 NIV
If you are on death row in an Alabama prison, you are scheduled to get an hour a day of yard time. That is, time outside. You are scheduled to get an hour of yard time, but you don’t always get it. You get it unless it storms. You get it unless the prison is short-handed on corrections officers. You get it unless….
I learned about yard time from visiting prisoners. I didn’t understand it until Anthony Ray Hinton explained it.1 He described two types of liberty in prison. One was the trips he would take in his imagination. The other was yard time.
Hinton’s imagination reminded me of William Stringfellow’s statement that true freedom was Daniel Berrigan in prison. I can imagine Berrigan in the cell, eyes closed, boisterous smile. His body is there, but he is not. The truly imprisoned were the correctional officers, the warden – worried, fretting that Berrigan, like Paul, might disappear on their watch. But that is writing for another day.
Then there is yard time. Strange how fences and armed guards border Hinton’s liberty but it was liberty just the same. Not bounded by steel and concrete. A little room to walk. Fresh air to clear his lungs of prison stench. The sun. And the vastness of the sky.
After meeting Hinton, I started thinking about the fact that I could walk outside any time. But I didn’t. In fact, there were many days that I didn’t go outside at all. I had the liberty, but I was choosing to waive it -to give it away. When it comes to the actual experience of liberty, what is the difference between someone who gives it away and someone who it is taken from, even wrongfully taken from, like Hinton?
Now, most every day, I take an hour for yard time. I might be turning the soil, or trimming shrubs, or working on some experiment or project. But while I am out there, I try to experience liberty and how fundamentally American it is just to be outside because I choose to be.2