Tradition and ultimate modernity are not an either/or issue. The new should be able to cohabit with the old or it’s a fraud. Every day is new and every year grows old; we are what we are because of our ancestry (both genealogical and spiritual) and our kinless imagination. Imagination, the kernel of consciousness, is really all that’s eternal about us, and it has no allegiance, no blood ties. But it’s a lot; in fact, in the long run it’s everything.
Imagination is outside time, though of course it manifests in time. So what does it matter whether it make its temporary home in tradition or post-everything—or, better, in some combination of the two?
Time works both ways in me, inspiring me to praise the old, the traditional, as well as requiring of me—and I happily submit—that I revere the new in the sincerity, the integrity of its newness (be it a building, an art object, or a mode of communication). I would be less for honoring less either modality, either way of being in this world.
Here’s a poem I wrote when I was nine or ten. I only present it because it shows that even at that age I was grappling w/ this issue, and not because I think it’s a worthy poem, except maybe insofar as it is a child’s poem.
The Big Orange Celery
I walked down the street and passed an art gallery
where in the window I noticed a huge piece of celery.
It caught my interest, so in I walked
over to the guard, and together we talked.
“Do you call that art?” I asked enthusiastically.
“Sure, it’s part,” he said quite practically.
“Now take this giant orange piece of celery,
it adds beauty to our art gallery.
Of course the ancient art adds to it, too,
but I like variety, don’t you?”
I nodded my head and let him have his say,
so he continued by summing up this way:
“You see, my boy, it’s like a balance,
you have old art and and you have new talents.”