Author’s Note: If you are an NPR listener, you a probably familiar with the “This I Believe” series of essays read on air from time to time. For those who are not familiar with these essays, the premise is that it is a statement about some sort of existential concept, how the author views its importance and impact, and why these things sum up their belief in such a concept. It is with this format in mind that this article is structured.
I believe in old fashioned ideas. Working in the tech industry, I like to think that I’m a generally “progressive” person with an eye on where technology and culture are moving and how they are improving. I also like to think that I’m a realist and that it sometimes seems as if there is change for the sake of change alone, as if somehow, an old fashioned idea is no longer useful simply because it isn’t new and shiny any more. All too often it seems like old fashioned ideas like being steadfast in the face of adversity or fair in your dealings with others is somehow an indication of not being part of the here and now and that it makes us a bit of an anachronism. I believe in old fashioned ideas but I don’t believe that they are out of fashion.
The very foundation of Heathen ethical and moral thought, ancient and modern, revolves around belief in honor and worth. Every family has their own demands of honor. Every tribe has its own ideas of worthy action and behavior. These are varied and nuanced ideas and few hard and fast rules can be applied to them but there are certain patterns that do emerge. The patterns are the foundation of long standing concepts of what makes a person’s life truly meaningful. They are old fashioned ideas about loyalty, self-control, integrity, good judgment, and so many more than just the handful I could try to name. We find these traits being taught in leadership courses. We find them passed down from father to son on Midwestern farms. We find these ideas at the very bedrock of our social norms and we find them all too often derided as being the values of hicks, rednecks, and country bumpkins who don’t know that you need to do anything and everything you can to make a fast buck and get just that much richer. Just look at the business ethics as they are really practiced on Wall St. Sure, they are an easy target but just because it’s low hanging fruit doesn’t mean I’m not going to pluck it.
So this raises the question of whether or not these old fashioned ideas are anachronistic. I don’t believe so. I think they are worn, tarnished, and dinged up but they sure aren’t forgotten or abandoned. They may be old fashioned ideas but they are also very modern ideas. We, as Heathens, have made an active choice to live our lives by a certain sense of right and wrong and to believe that honor means something. When we give our word, even as just a simple promise, people expect us to keep it. We expect our kinsman to stand by us when times are hardest. We rely on our own boldness and steadfastness to see us through our tribulations. These values aren’t really all that old fashioned, just honest and expectations that family means something, your word is your bond, and that we will do our very best to support ourselves and our loved ones when times are hard. Sure, it might be easier to abandon our time honored traditions when things aren’t looking so grand but I suggest to you that this kind of behavior is really what is out of fashion. Where ever we look, we see the selfish no longer being free to revel in their self-absorbed seclusion. Instead, people are once again demanding that society uphold these old fashioned ideas and set things right again. So, I believe in old fashioned ideas being the future. They really aren’t so old fashioned after all.