What you can learn from the old world

There is a tendency to oppose traditional values with each generation. Our generation is unlikely to have a "job for life" attitude, we invented pre-drinking (success, go us), and our views on the classic “healthy-tan” have been educated out of us. There are however, many old world values that could still be relevant today.

A man walking closer to the road with a woman is about protection, from traffic, or perhaps just from puddles. This came from the idea that the woman stands opposite your sword, so that you could defend her from a more real threat. Even as we look at the significance of feminism and equality, it remains a sweet gesture that doesn’t need to have anything to do with a persons position or sex.

One I heard recently was of a group of people sitting in the gutter (or on a closed toilet). It was suggested that you shouldn’t sit anywhere if you cannot offer the seat to somebody great. As a matter of self respect, a person should never sit anywhere that lowers himself like this.

Perhaps less practical is turning the other cheek. Now we often think of avoiding conflict, perhaps by walking away. Where it comes from though, is if somebody was slapped with the back of the hand, you would offer to let them slap you again. Being slapped with the front of the hand is less insulting, so you would give this person the chance to hit you again if they wished to rethink their harsher position. The idea of walking away is not dissimilar as you are again seen as the more reasonable person.

These traditions and ideas are small, but it is small gestures and actions that build the larger picture of who we are. Perhaps incorporating these ideas into your life with some effort can give you self respect, awareness and self confidence.

Ouroboros, the symbol of the snake eating its own tail, is well recognised. Often it depicts continuation, like the circle of life. In this version it is about new children being brought into the world, or like a phoenix born from ashes.

It is also used less often as an analogy for a group acting in a way that the majority do. In this version we are given a warning that tradition leads to stagnation, while not following the old ways is of massive benefit. As opposed to, say, slowly dying. The second meaning resonates with me far more than the common one.

This duality of meaning is not likely to influence you day to day. But what you get from symbols is what you choose to see, and may reflect more broadly how you choose to live.

The Swastika has a meaning more altered than any other. It once represented strength, and togetherness. Now we only remember the atrocities of what that “togetherness” and common ideals brought about. We decide what symbols mean to us, how we live, and what we stand for.