Handing over

The words ‘tradition’ and ‘betrayal’ share the same root, the Latin verb tradere meaning to hand over. To hand someone over to their enemies, to their death. To hand over the achievements of one generation into the hands of the next.

Perhaps the two are not that different. Isn’t tradition also a betrayal?

Each generation finds its own solutions to its own problems. But the solutions are never quite completely original, and the problems are not completely different each time. Unlike fish, who have been unable to develop culture, and thus collective memory, to avoid capture, humans learn from generational mistakes.

Tradition is the greatest competitor to evolutionary time. It is also a betrayal of nature, a gimmick humans evolved to trick time, gaining a colossal competitive advantage over the other species.

The ultimate treachery is that of abolishing the reset button. Human society cannot start from scratch. No generation can undo the gains or failures of previous ones. They might feign amnesia, but that’s just another trick. We are blessed or doomed to live with yesterday. We hand everyone down and are handed down in return.

While the life of each of us is a constant negotiation with tradition, none of us can extradite onself from the imperatives of the human condition. There is no transhuman ex-tradition, on one side or another. We are comfortably and joyously trapped in a chain of traditional handovers. We might welcome or disavow them – but we must live in their shadow, knowing that once something has been seen, it cannot be unseen.

We’ve tasted it, and now we can’t go back.

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