I am ignorant.
It is around this idea that my entire worldview is structured. This is not to suggest that I believe that I am stupid, nor that I don’t know anything — I seem to have a particularly vast knowledge of rather useless tennis facts—but all things considered, I recognize that I know very little. So do you. It’s by no fault of our own; courtesy a number of factors outside our control, we are limited in what we can experience in life, and thus what we can have knowledge of.
Think of it this way: The knowledge of one person is insignificant relative to all the knowledge that exists at UNC, which pales in comparison to that of our country at large, which is itself infinitesimal when compared to the collective knowledge of the world. Most of this people recognize. It’s why the University preaches open-mindedness and diversity, because everyone at UNC, students and professors alike, has a unique set of experiences that can be learned from. It is on this aspect of open-mindedness that we typically focus, on being receptive to new perspectives and new ideas. But what of old ideas?
In our quest to expand the scope of our understanding of the world, we tend to overlook what is perhaps the greatest body of wisdom there is: Tradition. If the collective knowledge of the United States is nothing compared to that of the world’s, consider the fact that the current population of Earth is estimated to be a mere 7 percent of the people who have ever lived. Tradition represents the accumulated knowledge of generations upon generations of humanity, of people who have had wide and varied experiences. It is the result of the lessons learned by all of those who came before us, the product of eons of trial and error. Ignoring this resource is as silly as it is shortsighted.
Tradition provides a unique perspective, unlike any capable of existing today. Operating at a time removed from the present, tradition provides a point of view that, while not entirely objective, is not susceptible to modernity’s trends and moments of groupthink. The great Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton once described tradition as “the democracy of the dead,” a way for those who helped create the world we live to continue to have a say in it after they’ve passed away. In essence, it is a moderating factor that, when listened to, helps temper modern society during its outbursts of extremity, both on the Left and the Right.