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2012/11/06 - Author: Marco Neves

The origin of our specie is entangled with the evolution of our planet for thousands of years and traditions are a basic part of our culture, most likely from the beginning of our existence – traditions are observable is most (all?) primate species.

But where do traditions come from? Well, before that I would like to tell you a story.

A group of three monkeys was kept in a cage and a branch of bananas was hang on the cage with the monkeys, but when any of the monkeys tried to get bananas from it all the monkeys in that cage would be fired upon with jets of water.

After repeating that procedure a few times, any time a monkey tried to get bananas from that branch the other monkeys would beat him. At some point the testers stopped using the jets of water, but the beatings remained. Anytime a monkey tried to get bananas the would would beat him, no matter that the jets of water were not being used anymore.

But, to make it more interesting, one of the monkeys was replaced with another monkey. A monkey that was never wet because other monkey tried to get to the bananas.

As soon as the new monkey tried to get some of the bananas, the other two monkeys started beating him, and after some of this spankings the new monkey starts to join in beating the other monkeys when trey try to get bananas.

At this point another of the original monkeys was replaced by a new one that was never attacked with water. When this new monkey tried to get to the bananas, he was beaten by the other two and soon after also this new monkey would start beating the other when they tried to get to the bananas.

At some point the last of the original monkeys was also replaced by a new one. Now, in this cage, there is not a single monkey that suffered the original punishment  for getting to the bananas and, still, when the new monkey tried to get to the bananas, he was punished by the other monkeys, and soon he also would join in as a punisher.

This illustrates how traditions are born.

At some point in time one individual does something that have an impact (real or perceived – most often than not just perceived) in the live of others or in the live of the community. And when that happens rules and/or rituals are created to prevent or repeat that event.

Where do we find traditions around us, in our lives? Everywhere, in almost everything.

From the way people say hello to each other – and other similar interactions – to how commerce works. From what you eat to how you eat it. From how you interact with friends to how you interact with people you cross with in the street and never met before.

Traditions are, in the end, habits that are common to the majority of a group and, most importantly, that are not renegotiated every time, just assumed and used.

At some point in the past, I used to be part of a group that would have dinner every Wednesday, and have some fun after that. That was a tradition, not everyone would join every week, but every week  there was a group that would go out for dinner – dinner out become our Wednesday tradition.

In some western cultures it’s also tradition that men will take the first step and approach women they are interest in.

Tradition defined a lot of our daily interactions and in some places tradition have value of law in the absence of other laws.

Tradition can take a lot of forms, and be transmitted in the more diverse ways. From the aggravated look your neighbor gives you whenever you cross him in the street because of your long hair – tradition says that men are use the hair short – to the yelling – and beating if you are one of the unlucky ones – your parents gave you whenever they felt you were disrespecting some rule, to the cookbooks you can find today in most bookstores, and an huge amount of other practices, all contribute to get you in alignment with tradition.

Tradition, like almost everything else, if you want to take it all, have good and bad things. But unlike a lot of other things, with tradition you can pick what works for you and what doesn’t, you can choose what you want to keep, what you want to practice, and what you want to skip.

Traditions were mostly created to make life in society better, to make it simpler. But times change, and so do practice, knowledge and ambitious. Traditions, however, don’t change themselves, it take the will of people to change them, it takes a few people to step forward and say – those are not my traditions – and a few more more to follow them.

It takes you to ask yourself “Is this behavior, that society thinks is important, working for me or am I working for it? Where did it  come from? Does it still make sense or is it an outdated concept?”

In the end, you can let society choose how you should behave, or you can choose for yourself which ways you follow inlive.

Which traditions you think are outdated and should be abandoned? Which would you rather keep above all?

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