worship of the ashes

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”

Gustav Mahler

I can’t stop thinking about these words from Mahler that I saw the other week…my initial reaction is to call bullshit. Tradition is the worship of the ashes; but I think that may just be my tendency to take the foundations of my classical practice for granted.

But to believe that tradition is only “preserving the fire” seems idealistic to me.

I think I would revise his words:

Tradition is both the worship of ashes, and the preservation of fire.

In a lot of ways, we carry on something just because someone carried it on. This is not preserving anything useful. In the same way, I owe much of my practice as a musician to the people who preserved, practiced and taught the tradition to me.

It’s both and.