Progress Is An Insult To Our Ancestors

Look at us, gawking and looted graves

Sages hark back to the ages. They revere their ancestors. Ancestor worship is the oldest form of worship, and for good reason. It’s good. Today, alas, we revile the ancients. We call them silly and superstitious. We think ourselves incomprably more advanced, while we roll the whole ecosystem and smoke it in one drag. In this fallen age, we worship only our selves and the great golden gods of ‘progress’ and ‘growth’. No wonder things are literally going to hell. We have offended the old gods and the new. An age that forgets ancestor worship is truly cursed, and that’s the age we live in.

Recently someone close to us was killed and we keep pictures of him everywhere. I light the oil lamp we only used for birthdays and watch the flames flicker over his photograph. We bring fresh flowers and watch them fade, like the passing of a human life. I understand ancestor worship for the first time really because I do it, religiously. He’s like a deva to me.

In Sri Lankan culture we also worship our elders. Before leaving we bow to them and touch their feet. As a ‘modern’ person I had begun to avoid this as anachronistic, but now I realize that trying to jump the line out of time is the problem. I try to worship my parents again, to show my children that elders should be respected, rather than just telling them. And it’s nice also. It makes everybody happy.

We lose all this under modernization. Confucius said you should take three years off when a parent dies, and now you get a day if you’re lucky. Master Kong harked back to much wiser ancients than him, but today those sages are forgotten and Master Kong’s wisdom is reviled as the “mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.” The fortune cookie, of course, being a modern American invention. You can see how history folds in on itself, under the pressure of blithe ignorance.