“Tradition does not mean the living are dead, but that the dead are living.” – Gilbert Chesterton (British writer and philosopher)
During the last one month I spent many inspirational moments with Abhijit, a young twenty three year old man. I am twice his age, and thought I had seen more of life, faced severe challenges and could give him some wisdom. Yet as we served and travelled together, I saw his silent demeanour had a profound effect on me.
He spoke little but when he did, it touched my heart. He smiled, and was spontaneous in his service attitude.
I pondered what attracted me to him so much; he radiated a silent wisdom of many generations. ‘What’s so special about him?’ I wondered and began my inquiry.
I soon learnt that even as a toddler, his devout, spiritual parents would expose the child to sacred sound vibrations. Saintly men and women would frequent their house often, and little Abhijit was trained to serve them, hear from them, observe them and be around them. While he had a normal childhood and enjoyed Bollywood and Cricket like the other kids, he also received a culture of spiritual practises. His parents taught him to care for the needy and serve the elderly. He heard, observed, rendered menial services to others, and imbibed the family and community spirit from his elder folks.
A quiet grace added to his otherwise youthful exuberance. He is unassuming, yet a leader; his many friends look up to him. Abhijeet’s opinions are taken seriously. And he didn’t learn any personality development courses. He’s naturally humble, and attractive.
There’s beauty in tradition as British novelist Somerset Maugham said if it is a guide, not a jailer. I could see Abhijeet was not bound by the traditions; he is a free and happy bird exploring the world and expanding his mind. Yet the serenity of the traditions guide him and oversee his life’s journey much the same way a loving father proudly observes his son’s growth.
Woody Allen once quipped, “Tradition is the illusion of permanence” and I disagree with him. Traditions reveal timelessness; some principles belong to all ages, and to all times and places. Traditions remind us the glory of these principles. Unfortunately we live in times when traditions are looked down upon. The CEO of Microsoft Satya Nadella confessed in one interview that our industry does not respect tradition; it only respects innovation.
But people like Abhijeet remind us that tradition, if valued, gathers strength to go on for centuries. You can’t ignore it or dismiss it, for after all, as Gustav Mahler, the Austro-German composer said, “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire!”