Traditions

Having seen the movie dozens of times, I can no longer hear the word "tradition" without thinking of Tevye defending the traditions of his people.  Traditions can be really good.  Certainly, they help to provide structure to a group or a society.  As a younger man, I avidly defended all of my traditions, seeing them all as helpful and wise.  Lately, I have grown to be more skeptical and to critically analyze many of the traditions I have been taught.

Gene Roddenberry was definitely a genius.  There's so much wisdom in the Star Trek series.  Yes, I just barely wrote about a different episode, but I just can't help but publicly admire the level of understanding Roddenberry shows where humans are concerned.  This episode is called "A Half Life".  In this, a scientist comes aboard the Enterprise to receive help with a project he's been working on his whole life.  While there, the very outspoken and opinionated Lwaxana Troi falls in love with him.  Toward the end of his stay on the Enterprise, he reveals that he is going home to die because he is about to turn 60 and one of the customs of his people is to die at 60, before senility can take away one's dignity.

Of course, Lwaxana is very opposed to the idea, and points out how barbaric it is.  Through much coaxing and persuasion, she convinces the man to stay aboard the Enterprise and continue his work.  His daughter comes to see him to indicate to him how disappointed she is in him.  This particular conversation really hit home with me because it reminded me very much of many conversations I've had with Mormons since I decided to leave the church.

She tells her father that she is disgusted by his choice to avoid the Resolution (the ritual where he is expected to kill himself due to his reaching age 60).  She adds that when she was young, he taught her to love and respect the Resolution.  This is precisely the language I have received from many people telling me how they felt about me leaving the church.  I've had many people tell me that I had strengthened their testimony while I was a member--that I was a source of strength for their faith.  Actually, I find this to be flattering.  However, at the same time, I feel sad to know that I was an influence for making people more stubborn in their belief of their fantasy.

Also, the man continues his work on the Enterprise (only for about a day or two), and tries to send his work down to his home planet, but they have cut the link.  They refuse to acknowledge any more information from him, just because he has refused to participate in the Resolution.  I find this to be quite analogous to people ostracizing those who leave their faith.  I had many many friends--or people that I used to think of as friends--in the local church unit here, but they have basically cut off all communication with me.  Fortunately, this wasn't a systematic thing, like it was in the case of the Star Trek episode.  There are still people who have maintained their friendship with me.  But, I found the parallel to be mostly applicable.  When you reject a certain belief system, or a certain custom or tradition, you are alienated from the rest of society.  The people you once knew and associated with now want little or nothing to do with you.