Tradition versus habit... what is the difference. How does one look at a single action and clearly define it as either one or the other? The fact of the matter is that these two words have such a symphony of connotations and denotations unique to each individual that the task is made nearly impossible. So in the conscious effort to explore this area I will outline this controversial topic by the only tools at my disposal; my perspective, my experiences, and the dictionary.
Oftentimes the differentiating factor between two similar things comes in the form of intent. Another way to frame this idea is by asking a question; what is the difference between habit and tradition? I am not asking this to derive a legalistic response revolving around numbers and strict repetition, but rather to discover the conceptual difference. To my mind habit is a bi-product, something unintentional, which comes about by an unrelated decision. At the moment a proper example alludes me but I am sure that as a blog reader you have a healthy imagination. Tradition in contrast results directly by purposeful recognition, though undoubtedly as generations pass on, the tradition slides back into habit as the intent is forgotten and only empty actions survive. Take Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentines day as examples of a tradition begun with a target occasion of remembering which has, over the years, lost the integrity and flavor of the original celebration and has fallen into the hands of generic commercialism. Please however, do not become a cynic because traditions can be revitalized and traditions can be created, or if you are so inclined they can remain in the habitual existence of meaningless days off of school with exceptional food. In fact in some cases this emptiness of intent can slide into the negative end of the spectrum by the fact that constant exposure without effect can often go towards desensitizing the individual from ever receiving impact. Take for example empty worship and attending church, or worship as a purely physical act of speaking or singing which never reaches into the realm of emotion or spirituality. I would personally put forth that such circumstances go so far as to harm the individual through desensitization.
Despite the fact that ritual can slide into meaninglessness, there in lies a tremendous control through implementing tradition, for the action remains even if the thought does not. For the better or for the worse. So, having looked upon past traditions which have survived up to this day, why not look ahead for a change?
Family traditions are an exemplary way to change for the better. A concept derived from personal experience. Establishing traditions especially that force us to return to their original intent are effective.
Why else do we read the story of Christ's birth ON THE BASE OF TRADITION every Christmas Eve?
To be reminded of the intent behind the celebration.
To keep tradition from sliding back to habit.
Another way of looking at the differentiation between habit and tradition is in the connotation between the two terms. Habit, is most often negatively connoted. Drop it like a bad habit. If you want to get to the level of psychoanalyzing one could find that this connotation comes from a form of evading responsibility. When we do something perceived by society as negative, we do not accept it as being in our nature so thus in rebellion tag it as habit. People in general do not like to accept themselves as bad, so promote this negative behavior as a secondary trait and thus, tag it as habit. Not natural, but something of a weakness. Tradition on the other hand is often seen as what we ought to do. In fact the word 'tradition' is often, especially in religious connotations, coined as synonymous with 'law'. In this regard habit could be that action by which we deviate from tradition.
Now there comes another differentiation which stands out to me in particular as a 'youngster', in that tradition is of the generation past. In asking a friend what he thought on the matter at hand, his first response was "old people". I could see this in the fact that often it is the elder generation which passes or teaches the tradition which was taught to them through their own elders, and in that it is the elderly which so strongly clings to it. Perhaps the so called 'habits' of today will be the traditions of tomorrow but you cannot do something for the first time and call it a tradition. Sure you can announce it, just like my mom saying "We are starting a new family tradition" but time, as for most things, is a verifier of validity. The longer some ritual has been in place the more easily it can be accepted under the title of 'tradition'. Tradition holds longevity as a requirement.
In what I promise to be the last aspect of my thought peice, one often holds tradition itself as being synonymous with law or constraints. Heirienlies the generational divide again, for often the young, unaccustumed to what was widely accepted as the norm for the generation past sees the traditional pillars of this state of being as constraining and not supportive. I siuppose it depends from where you are percieving the matter at hand. Often they are seen as a necessity for one existence, yet from the outside, the upholding of that state is not wanting, and thus such traditions can be construed as negative; a factor which inhibits in its necessity. Religiously, there is no such thing as a positive habit, and is upheld very much by tradition. Are all things progressive? This is not an issue I can even pretend to hold a grasp on.... so take of it what you will.
All in all, this is a remaining conundrum to my mind. In fact in analyzing this subject I believe I have only deepened my confusion. So dependent upon the light by which I view the subject I will see the action as either one or the other, and either good or bad in this fact.
worship as a routine and thus less meaningful