In an interview with a lapsed Catholic, college-educated salesman from a new subdivision in Maytown, I was asking him why, when he was finished with college and thinking about proposing to his girlfriend, he did not want to simply live together with his girlfriend in a long-term relationship. Why did he want to get married?
I mean, coming from a Catholic faith, you look at the way that we’re kinda raised. It is kind of a — p-dum, p-dum [imitating drum beating sound]. It’s kind of like that program thing. You go to school. You go to Mass. You find a nice, Catholic girl. You get married. You buy a house. You have a kid. Boom, boom, boom, boom, you know? And I find myself living my life on the next step. I was thinking like that.
To me, his answer is an example of how traditions and institutions help to simplify what are otherwise extraordinarly complex decisions. It is also an example of how culture orients a person toward certain decisions — “I was thinking like that,” he says.
Sometimes tradition is overbearing and stifling, and leads a person down the wrong path. Or because tradition is tradition, the danger is that the person fails to own what the tradition teaches. But when traditions, or institutions, are working as they ought to work, the “p-dum, p-dum” of tradition’s drum help a person to internalize accumulated wisdom, march confidently into the future, and to a certain extent, “predict” the future.