Watching a performance of warriors, I was told,
“This fighter’s tradition is six hundred years old.”
And I saw a performance so mired in ritual —
As if nothing valid had happened in six hundred years.
We must honor the classical without being irrelevant.
Followers of Tao place great value on ancient traditions. A living and valid tradition is like a river with a long course : It brings freshness, richness, and fertility. Just as a drought-ridden place cannot bring forth sweet fruit, those without tradition have less support for their endeavors.
What makes a tradition alive? The adherents must be fully capable of manifesting the greatness of their tradition in contemporary settings. If someone says that they are expert in traditional medicine, then they must be able to heal others today. If someone says that they are capable in traditional calligraphy, then they must be able to write beautiful words today. If someone says that they have mastered esoteric spiritual traditions, Then they must be able to manifest the power of that spirit today.
We should not ape the habits and theories of a long dead people and time in the name of tradition. We must be ruthless in this respect. Unless the force of tradition allows us to manifest a unique greatness, there is no reason to keep it.