Thursday, May 11


We are enamoured of progress. We live at a time when things shiny and new are prized far above things old and time-worn. For most of us, tradition is little more than a quirky and nostalgic sentimentalism. It is hardly more than the droning, monotonous succession of obsolete notions, anachronous ideals, and antiquarian habits--sound and fury, signifying nothing. Henry Ford called an awareness of history and an appreciation for the past mere “bunk.” Augustine Birrell called it “a dust heap.” Guy de Maupassant dubbed it “that excitable and lying old lady.” But many of the wisest of men and women through the ages have recognized that honoring and remembering the traditions, accomplishments, and aspirations of the past form the firm foundations upon which all true advancement must be built--that they are in fact, the prerequisites to all genuine progress:

"The greatest advances in human civilization have come when we recovered what we had lost: when we learned the lessons of history." Winston Churchill

"Those who have no concern for their ancestors will, by simple application of the same rule, have none for their descendants." Richard Weaver

"A contempt of the monuments and the wisdom of the past, may be justly reckoned one of the reigning follies of these days, to which pride and idleness have equally contributed." Samuel Johnson

"To comprehend the history of a thing is to unlock the mysteries of its present, and more, to disclose the profundities of its future." Hilaire Belloc

"In literature as in love, courage is half the battle. Likewise, in virtue as in fashion, tradition is the surest guide to the future." Sir Walter Scott

"Clearly, in order to advance the cause of life and liberty in these dark and difficult days, we must recover what we have lost—we must learn the lessons of history. There is no need for us to attempt to reinvent the wheel. The battles for truth, justice, and mercy have been fought again and again and again. Successfully. We need not cast about for direction. We need not grope in the dark for strategies, programs, and agendas. We need not manufacture new ideas, new priorities, or new tactics. We already have a tested and proven formula for victory. We already have a winning legacy. We simply need to reclaim it. We simply need to recover what is rightfully ours." Tristan Gylberd

"Both the liberals and the conservatives have lost definition. Neither one can make us know what a tradition might." Andrew Nelson Lytle


Inkling said...

Thanks for sharing those quotes. Your posting elaborated on exactly what my heart and mind are learning at the moment. I just tried to write about it a few minutes ago, but only after reading what you quoted, do I realize exactly what I was learning tonight at a wedding shower. So thanks.

oldfatslow said...

Quoting someone quoting GKC:

[F]rom Chesterton's book, Orthodoxy, Chapter 4, "The Ethics of Elfland. ...."Tradition means giving a vote to most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead." Chesterton goes on to say: "Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our father."


Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Great quotes George and I, too, have been thinking along the same lines lately (the last 20 years)! For an interesting Scripture study on this subject, do a search in your Bible program on the words, "remember" & "remembrance."

Amber Benton said...

Everyone should know at least one person whose life is so grounded that there are trails in the yard to the wood shed, to the clothesline, to the rock where the cats are fed (which was worn slick by tongues), to the spring where they draw water, whose books are read more than once, and who on Sunday afternoons after church sit under the dogwood tree who's bark is worn slick from children's bare feet telling the same stories occasionally interspersed with on that hasn't been told before. Someone who's lived in the same house their whole lives! I think we have a hard time understanding 'history' because we have so little acquaintance with even a local/personal history. We are many times a people without a rhythm and who are not only disconnected from our families, but also our communities, our Christian heritage, and our God.