There is no such thing as purity in the world—no pure music, no pure language, no pure race, no pure religion, no purely indigenous species or cultural cuisine. In every case, there is a mixing in the background, an evolution. “Pure” rock-and-roll merged blues and country, while the blues was a likely adaptation of African music and country a transmutation of English and Irish folk; the English language is a stew of Germanic and French stock, with ingredients added, subtracted and modified over time and from one locale to the next; “Native” Americans invaded the land from Asia; Christ’s message comes to us filtered by hundreds of years of interpretation, addition and pruning; and, just to shake that last remaining pillar, the iconic Irish potato came from Peru sometime after Columbus initiated the blending of hemispheres. The concept of the “traditional” likewise dissolves under the same examination. “Traditional” family values, for example, often means “families as they were in the fifties” (or, at any rate, as they were imagined to be).
And so it goes. Time marches on; things move, shift and merge. Those who speak of purity in anything, except perhaps a diamond, chase a phantom. They but follow their subject back to a state with which they are happy—or to which they have become habituated—and then trumpet the majesty of their chosen snapshot in time. Arguments that use purity or tradition as their props appeal to this imagined immovable state of being, enshrined not by any actual sanctitude, but instead by the arguer’s sensibilities. Let us call a spade a spade. To say, “This is better because it’s pure,” is to say, “This is better because I prefer it.”
I am fascinated by how long we give certain arguments serious attention in our culture, when a small amount of thought and experience prove them entirely baseless. The conversations that go on around us in the media and politics are made up largely of such foundationless fluff and are thus, by any definition of the word, insane. But there is so much of it and it swirls around us with such speed and relentlessness, that our minds become addled by it. We may even begin to think that there is no such thing as truth, that no one has ever found it. But the amazing thing is, people have found the truth. And it is not hard to find. But the truth is not a snapshot or a slogan. Falsehoods are easily spouted. They reflect lazy thinking which therefore latches on to convenient words. They thrive in noisy surroundings, in the flurry of headlines and daily commentary. The truth is hard to describe in words. And it grows in quiet places.