Tradition and Progress: A Balancing Act

I’m sure we’ve all heard the ancient phrase that Old is Gold but I’m here to ask the question, is it really?

Every civilization since the dawn of time have had their share of lessons which have been passed down through the generations. A rich heritage preserved in the form of books, traditions, rituals, customs and most importantly, discovery. All of this together is an extremely rich source of invaluable knowledge and experience which can be beneficial to all those preceding them if applied in the right context. But, as with everything, there are dangers attached to it because the key phrase here is right context.

What we now call the past was once actually the present at some point of time. Similarly, one day our present will be just be that too, the past. Living in this present time we bear witness to current happenings, aptly realizing that there are certain aspects of this modern society which are definitively evil. This begs the question, is there a plausible chance that a few centuries later, reference to these evil might be chalked down simply as ancient wisdom? I am afraid that answer to this is a resounding yes since we have a tendency to associate ancient with good and wise.

Heritage has and always will have its value but the thing to be understood is that everything that is old is not gold. Giving precedence to old more than it is due will be akin to spitting in the face of progress which has been made during the ages. We humans have been gifted by nature with the most powerful and absolute of all tools, innovation. And by this gift we have made advances in every single field of life. A common grievance of some is that we haven’t supposedly sustained the high morals and values of our ancestors regardless of the fact that we are living in a different time. Our requirements, be it materialistic or spiritual, are of today and today only. A direct comparison of old customs is not the correct measurement. There were number of ancient traditions and values like burning of widow on husband’s pyre (Sati), Caste System, the lack of civil and personal liberties, the crusades as well the controversial history of the catholic church, would would make even Hitler seem like a saint.

But here we are because things unraveled and improved when we stopped following these beyond relevance. As it is required for trees to shed old leaves for growth, for us humans it is also must that we understand rationale behind old customs and adopt them selectively in their correct context. or else in the name of old heritage we will be carrying a tremendous burden which will hamper our progress in all fields. Development of fanaticism and hatred towards other religions in our society is the result of this unmindful clinging to past without understanding its relevance in modern context.

We must understand that humans have always been at their best by virtue of continual improvement and learning. Our ancestors were also at their best at that time and we are also at our pinnacle during it. Our following generations will be better than us in all aspects whether we like it or not. And when we think about it, that is the ultimate goal, isn’t it?

We must take inspiration from our past, to gauge the very foundations our society was built upon but it is we who have to build upon it going into the future and that can only be done if believe in our biggest of all strengths, innovation.
And as we all know, tradition and innovation, old and new cannot coexist; for the old, however gold it may be, has to be usurped by the new and the better. Dylan Thomas explained this perfectly when he said:

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

By: Muhammad Hassaan Arshad

About the Author

An aspiring doctor, a budding philosopher and perhaps most importantly, an exceedingly keen observer. I am Muhammad Hassaan Arshad, a man as flawed as he is seasoned.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top