Staying relevant by welcoming adaptation
As you might guess from this week’s photo, I recently attended the Bermuda Caledonian Society’s annual Burns’ Supper.
Dedicated to perpetuating the immortal memory of the Scottish poet and lyricist Robert “Rabbie” Burns who lived from 1759 — 1796, this event is celebrated each January all around the world.
What struck me most about this patriotic event, replete with traditions ranging from kilts, to the parading of the haggis, to speeches, was the very entertaining demonstration of modern highland dancing that was performed by a number of young girls from the Bermuda Highland Dancers troupe.
What I most appreciated about their performance was the way in which the girls combined the fundamental elements of traditional highland dancing with modern music and dance moves.
The skill, energy and footwork of traditional dances were all evident, but interpreted with a lightness and flow that could be easily appreciated by a modern audience.
As a pioneer of the Romantic Movement which valued emotionalism and individualism in the expression of all the arts, I think Burns himself would have also applauded this new interpretation of traditional material.
In politics and arts, he appreciated the need for things to change, but not everyone saw things his way.
The challenge of keeping any tradition alive is to continually seek new ways to make it resonate with a modern audience.
Where proponents of the “old ways” often fall short, is in their rigid determination that nothing be allowed to change.
This sort of thinking often does succeed for a time but eventually the clash between those set on preserving tradition “for tradition’s sake” and those intent on finding new modes of expression becomes so great that a rift occurs.
What traditionalists frequently fail to account for is the ability of youth to turn their backs on all things “old” as being irrelevant, in favour of any new mode of self-expression.
Whether it is better or worse is simply of no consequence — it matters only that it is “new”.
Ironically, the best way to ensure that traditions stand the test of time is to welcome adaptations and improvements in all their glory.
The same might equally be said of our own selves. What better way to stay young at heart (or relevant) than to embrace the ways of younger generations?
So rather than wither in the corner like the plant that everyone forgot to water, why not step out of your own comfort zone and create some new traditions of your own?
So what if you have always sent paper greeting cards, why not learn how to send e-greetings to all the grandkids instead?
Who cares if you always had Sunday dinner at your granny’s house when you were growing up, why not let your children take turns inviting you over for a meal?
So what if your grandfather never spent time with you, why not find a project that you can work on with your younger family members?
Robin Trimingham is an author and thought leader in the field of retirement who specialises in helping corporate groups and individuals understand and prepare for a new life beyond work. Contact her at www.olderhoodgroup.com, 538-8937 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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