So the other week we were driving home from Thanksgiving dinner at my parents’, and listening to Performance Today‘s Thanksgiving edition – “Appalachian Spring” and some other Americana-type works. And then they played a Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) piece with which I was not familiar… and although I’d never heard the work, I knew immediately that it fit into the continuum of the Western musical tradition, and even roughly how. It just *felt* right; deeply familiar and satisfying, and even comforting.
It struck me that this is, in the end, the true, deep meaning of tradition – it gives us a solid sense of our place in the world, tells us where we’re from and where we belong. It’s no secret that tradition and cultural continuity were part of what initially drew me to Hellenism; I stayed for the Gods, of course, but the fact that these Gods and this way of worship are not wholly foreign does matter to me.
As much as I may admire other polytheistic faiths – there are aspects of both Hindu and Shinto theology that I believe are deeply true and holy, for instance, and that have heavily influenced my religious thinking – in the end I could no more *become* Hindu or Shinto than I could become Indian or Japanese. I’m American, through and through; most of my ancestors were already on this land before there *was* an America, and the experience of being American (and more specifically an entirely, if distantly, Western-European-descended American) has indelibly shaped my character, thoughts and beliefs.
My nation, my culture, my heritage. Is it, objectively, the absolute best possible? Of course not; there’s no such thing. There are things I admire about other societies and cultures that we (America/”the West”) don’t have, but also a lot that I like about ours that others don’t do well or at all. Can it be improved? Always and absolutely; the best impulse of patriotism is to constantly seek such improvement. But what it is, that no other culture or heritage on Earth can ever be… is mine.