Man is in his actions and practice, as well as in his fictions, essentially a story-telling animal. He is not essentially, but becomes through is history, a teller of stories that aspire to truth. But the key question for men is not about their own authorship; I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question, ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’ We enter human society, that is, with one or more imputed characters - roles into which we have been drafted - and we have to learn what they are in order to be able to understand how others respond to us and how our responses to them are a part to be construed... Deprive children of stories and you leave them unscripted, anxious strutters in their actions as in their words. Hence there is no way to give us an understanding of any society, including our own, except through the stock of stories which constitute its initial dramatic resource. Mythology, in its original sense, is at the heart of things. Vico was right and so was Joyce. And so too of course is that moral tradition fro heroic society to its medieval heirs according to which the telling of stories has a key part in educating us into the virtues.
Taboos are very ancient prohibitions which at one time were forced upon a generation of primitive people by an earlier generation. These prohibitions concerned actions for which there existed a strong desire. The prohibitions maintain themselves from generation to generation, perhaps only as the results of a tradition set up by paternal and social authority.
Of all intellectual friendships, none are so beautiful as those which subsist between old and ripe men and their younger brethren in science or literature or art. It is by; these private friendships, even more than by public performance, that the tradition of sound thinking and great doing is perpetuated from age to age.
The meaning of life is to be found in our surroundings and in our relationships... Life is meaningful when we respect the best of tradition while still loving innovation... Life is fulfilling when we marry pride with tolerance, when our deeds and our words are nourished by hope and by realism, when the wisdom of the ages catches the passionate eye of youth. Life on this earth in our time is, above all, a parade of interdependent peoples, interdependent ideas, interdependent solutions. We are all artists of the possible - and dreamers of that which is just now beyond our reach, but may not be tomorrow.
Every tradition grows continually more venerable, and the more remote its origin, the more this is lost sight of. The veneration paid the tradition accumulates from generation to generation, until at last becomes holy and excites awe.
The problem is the spirit of our age: denial of transcendence, the vapidity of values, emptiness in the heart, the decreased sensitivity to the imponderable quality of the spirit, the collapse of communication between the realm of tradition and the inner world of the individual.
A hero… is not a hero until he is recognized as one. This means that the actualization of the hero is a two-way projection. First the hero must project by way of his deeds, his style, his character. When the projection registers, an imaginative process begins to remake the hero to fit as fully as possible the symbolic weight of his image. Legend and myth take over the historical personage, and through either an oral or a written tradition he is reborn in his heroic apotheosis.
We know tradition as a living social process constantly changing, constantly in need of criticism, but constant also as the continuing memory, value system and habit structure of a society.
If a man has lived in a tradition which tells him that nothing can be done about his human condition, to believe that progress is possible may be the greatest revolution of all.
A Hopi tradition speaks of a fall from grace in which human beings experience themselves as progressively more separate from earth, animals, and other humans. The return to grace is through reunion. The cause of the fall is ascribed to people's forgetting their true nature and purpose.
The primary function of myth is to validate an existing social order. Myth enshrines conservative social values, raising tradition on a pedestal. It expresses and confirms, rather than explains or questions, the sources of cultural attitudes and values. Because myth anchors the present in the past it is a sociological charter for a future society which is an exact replica of the present one.
In general the character tradition assumes that institutions such as families, schools, and long-lived organizations will act more wisely than individuals and also that individuals who have lived through a variety of experiences have learned things that many young people do not yet know.