And voluntary tribute is love.
If I wait for a certain holiday or cultural celebration, then my enthusiasm is suspect. There are certain things which simply follow the rhythm of the seasons, and those are more natural. However, when a civilized culture mandates certain celebrations take place on certain days to honor this or that, we are edging into Phony Land. Here in the US, most such cultural celebrations are nothing more than a commercial endeavor, a marketing scheme to sell more trash as somehow socially obligatory.
It’s the same basic principle with tribute. The ancient principle is a form of feudalism. Someone big and strong in your area provides a measure of security, so you give them a measure of your produce. If the relationship is friendly, you hardly consider such tribute a loss. If it’s forced, done out of simple fear, it’s slavery. This has nothing to do with the legitimacy of the position taken by Mr. Big-n-Strong; that’s another question.
But there is a form of tribute and legitimacy which comes from less material concerns. When you do someone damage, whether material, social or in some other way transgress those civilizing limits we place between us, you become a debtor in that sense. The person offended has gained a legitimate position over you, and you have become a tributary. You have made a mess in their lives and are morally obliged to make it right. You owe them. Once the tribute is offered, in whatever form you are able, you are free. There are issues regarding ancient rights of negotiation, but only if they don’t accept your initial offer. The point is, you come suing for terms of peace.
Only with an arrogant refusal to accept liability do we have tort considerations. Civilization isn’t simply the rules, but rules with teeth in them. Such is a wholly other matter. If you understand it correctly, you realize how such things as mandatory anger management classes, or sensitivity training, are very badly implemented enforcement, a different kind of tort liability gone wrong. It presumes adults are children. Many are childish enough, but the state is by far the most evil parent on earth. Simply passing it off as a response to democratic demands from the community fails to note there are things no community has a right to demand.
But you and I as parents of actual minors in our care, whether natural or de facto, look for ways to train children to accept liability for a certain measure of things in this life. When we drill down to the underlying meaning behind the Levitical Law and rituals, we are confronted with the universal brokenness of the Fall. No human is always right unless He is also God at the same time. Sorry, that job’s been taken. The rest of us must internalize an element of humility, or our genius and creativity will be destructive. If our social rituals teach children to honor others, such as on Father’s Day (today in the US), it’s a good thing. It’s not for nothing God chose the image of Father as the primary symbol for His relationship to humanity. But if our teaching consists of demonstrating an empty lip service to such a ritual — making a hurried search for symbolic tributes late the night before or first thing in the morning, running out the buy stuff, etc. — then we have destroyed the whole thing.
Real fathers don’t need that stuff to feel like a Dad. What they need, must see, must demand, all year long are the daily actions which signal tribute and respect. Not to soothe is inflated ego, but to know his children aren’t going to be arrogant jerks who step on others and consider it somehow just. If a kid has to be forced to apologize to anyone, it is a truly dangerous sign.
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