Home Concepts Adult Development Essay XIX: The Heritage Drive—Extending Legacy in Time

Essay XIX: The Heritage Drive—Extending Legacy in Time

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When describing the processes involved in personal life transitions, Bill Bridges (1980,2001) suggests that we move through a deep, troubling “neutral zone.” He describes a state of being that closely resembles being in limbo, an intermediate zone between life and death. This is the zone of judgement and spiritual challenge that can be found in many religions. We often need abundant support and some Generativity Two mentoring and motivating to engage in sorting-out that which is to be saved and that which is to be discarded.

There is a third strategy, one that enables us to have our cake, and eat it too, with regard to Generative Safeguarding. We can celebrate a tradition, but not embrace it too tightly. The Mardi Gras festivals that are held throughout the world represent old and revered traditions that are not engaged during most of the year and are often not taken too seriously even when enacted. There are many such festivals, fairs and carnivals that come to town once a year.  Matthew Miles (1964) has written about temporary systems that allow us to engage elements of ourselves that are not usually part of our daily routine and persona. We honor the tradition without getting too “uptight” in terms of engaging it every day of our life.

A fourth strategy stands in stark contrast to the third. We take some traditions quite seriously and wrap them around our daily living, even though we live in a modern and nontraditional society. Observant Orthodox Jewish and Muslim colleagues find ways to engage their elaborate traditions while also living and working in a contemporary, secular society. The challenge for these remarkable men and women is great, especially in a world that is becoming increasingly suspicious of those who dress differently, practice restricted diets, and choose to allocate time each day to religious devotions.

The fifth and probably most impactful strategy for many people is to set aside space where the tradition can be fully honored. For example, certain islands in Hawaii are reserved for safeguarding traditional Hawaiian culture. National parks, land trusts and game preserves have boundaries and are protected. Also, theme parks are established to emulate and look after old traditions. All of these safeguards can be identified by a single word, which is itself wrapped in tradition: sanctuary.

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