Monday, October 1, 2012

Tradition and traditionalism

On the one hand there is participation in a tradition and on the other hand there is traditionalism. Traditions are (I am not doing fundamental ontology here) living things, and the participants in them stand in a line that embodies central features of the spirit of the tradition, which may be more or less clearly defined as the case may be. Traditionalists, on the other hand, seize on some aspect of a tradition and run with it in a way that may or may not be faithful to the living tradition that the aspects they seized on were a part of or were thought to be a part of.

This morning I was looking up the rules for "traditional" class archery competitions. The point of this class is to rule out sights and other fancy doodads that people put on their bows. But it is the ruling out of sights that is the central aspect of the class. Because any mark on the bow that the archer sees can be used as a sight, the rules forbid any markings in the relevant parts, including wood grain. An amusing consequence of this is that I suspect that no bow made prior to the second half of the 20th century could qualify. Moreover, I bet that just about from the first day that somebody made a bow, things like grain, scuff marks and the like were used, consciously or not, for sighting. This is a rather nice example of traditionalism rather than tradition: an archer thousands of years ago ]whose life depended on accuracy would presumably use any available marks (and make more?), but here one aspect of the ancient practice, the lack of add-on devices, is taken and generalized.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with traditionalism in the context of a sport or game. It is when traditionalism concerns what is central in life—say, traditionalism in religion (e.g., SSPX) or medicine (e.g., home births)—that it becomes problematic. The traditionalist is not fully a participant in the traditional practice she is focused on, failing to embody central aspects of that practice (e.g., failing to obey the Pope in the SSPX or following the best medical practices available at one's time and place), while yet missing out on the benefits of full participation in our contemporary community.


Dagmara Lizlovs said...

I’ve tried to research to see if primitive archer’s used some kind of sights on their bows and I’ve been unable to find anything. I was able to find that as early as 1937 some sort of sight was used on bows for competition shooting. I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere some primitive hunter put some marks on his bow to help him sight stuff, I just haven’t been able to locate any info on that. I think that with primitive archery, it was a lifetime of practice starting in early childhood that developed the eye, the aim, and the brain wiring. As for all kinds of doodads on bows for use as sights, things don’t always work as planned. I have been shooting the Parker Gale Force Crossbow which is Parker’s newest crossbow and can fire a bolt (crossbow arrow) at speeds of 350 ft/sec. It is equipped with an illuminated scope. And I am using Parker’s high performance carbon arrows designed specifically for that kind of crossbow. For shots under 40 yds that thing is mercilessly dead on. For shots from 50 and 60 yds, it still hits the target with considerable energy; however the accuracy and grouping starts to go off. From distances above 40 yards the effects of wind, minor hand movement, and the small differences between arrows have a more noticeable effect. To eliminate hand movement as much as possible I have been using a shooting bench with a Caldwell lead sled. This is typical equipment for sighting in rifles. Yet I’ve noticed a change in arrow performance based on wind and whatever small difference between each individual arrows flying ability starts showing up. Each day things are different even with the same set up. It is frustrating. Few people in my hunting club attempt crossbow shots from 50 and 60 yards, so no one really has much experience here.

I would like to make a brief statement to anyone reading my comments. If you are engaged in any outdoor activity in an area where hunting is allowed during deer archery season, you should consider that with the latest designs in archery hunting equipment there are more compound bows that can deliver arrows at 300 ft/sec, and crossbows that can deliver arrows between 300 to 400 ft/sec. The arrows are often equipped with mechanical broad heads that deploy blades on impact with a deer. The equipment is specifically designed to bring rapid death to a 200 lb mammal and can do so at distances between 40 to 50 yards. Wear bright conspicuous clothes. Blaze orange is the best. The most dangerous colors to wear in the woods are brown, grey, black or white (the back end of a white-tail deer is white). I will relate the following experience I had while hunting during deer firearms season. I was in a box stand and I saw what looked like a small deer moving through the growth. I had my gun lifted an inch off of my lap when I noticed that what I thought was a small deer was actually a dog with a fluffy tail curled over its back. The underside of the tail looked exactly like a white tail deer. Only then did I notice the dog’s owner wearing dark clothes. They were jogging along a nearby road, totally unaware that they were a straight 50 yard shot. That was pretty scary.

As for traditional archery, there are also the traditional black powder shooters with flintlock muzzle loaders. I remember one of my friends trying to shoot one. The flint would ignite the powder in the pan with a flash but this would not ignite the powder in the barrel. After he tried several times unsuccessfully to fire his gun, I remarked “You’re scalped by now”. I’m sure that if Daniel Boone could have traded his Kentucky rifle for a 30-06 he would have done so.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

As for SSPX, the Catholic Culture website has a number of articles on them:

With ultra traditionalists you also have the sedevacantists. SSPX doesn’t appear to be sedevacantist. While it is unhealthy to be way out in left field, I think that being way out in right field may not be much better.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I also tried to do some research to see if primitive archers used sights and found nothing. But I would be quite surprised if they didn't intuitively line up distinctive parts of their bow, including wood grain, wrappings, etc., with the target. As a complete beginner with no sights installed on my recurve, yesterday morning I certainly found it very helpful to align the target with grain patterns on the wood riser. (I then switched to masking tape.)

On a primitive bow there would be no need for putting any marks because there would be enough in the way of irregularities in the materials used to provide plenty of sight marks.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

One more thing to add on hunting safety. If you plan to hit the woods in the fall during any of the deer seasons - archery, black powder, or firearms, and if you plan to take your dog with you, please put a blaze orange vest on the dog. If you intend to horseback ride, please do something to make your horse conspicuous like breast collars, bridles, fly bonnets, saddle pads, girths, sports medicine boots in day glow bright colors or as close to blaze orange as you can. When I was in college one of my friends was riding in the woods during deer firearms season. She was wearing a brown jacket and she was riding a brown horse. She had a bullet go past her ear.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I only plan to go to the woods in our urban park (Cameron Park) and our archery club's 3D range where I assume hunting is also not allowed (at least there is a big sign saying that broadheads may not be used anywhere). But good advice for more adventurous people.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

Another reason for banning broadheads on some ranges is that they will tear up targets in no time. 3D targets can be quite expensive to replace. At the Mattapany Rod and Gun Club we have a seperate area for broadheads where you shoot at a cardboard deer and the arrow afterwords hits a pile of sand.