I haven’t posted anything here for a bit, the truth is my dog died last week, and I wasn’t up for doing much of anything for a week. He was a good old boy, I’d had him for thirteen years, ever since he was a pup. His health was getting bad and it was time to say goodbye before it got any worse. Later today I am going to bury his ashes in a nearby field where we used to take walks all the time. I bet I’ve watched my dog flop down in that field and roll around over a thousand times!
My dog Grendel passing away has got me thinking about the importance of ritual. The importance of marking or doing something special to mark major occurrences in life. These things can be very tough emotionally and having a ritual helps us come to terms with the new reality. Of course they can also be celebrations. For example weddings, birthday parties, graduations, house warming parties, anniversaries, these are all rituals that we use for celebration.
I also am all for people creating their own rituals. Mainly because I think we live in a society that has lost touch with with a lot of are old traditions, and so I think it is time for us to make new ones. The reason we have lost touch with these old traditions is I think, partly just a reflection of what it means to be American. We live in a country where people came here from every other continent on earth and so a lot of the old traditions that people had got lost in the shuffle. Whether your ancestors came from Europe, Africa, or Asia, etc. Our culture is a giant melting pot. And asides from major things like weddings and funerals a lot of customs, traditions, and rituals have gotten lost in the melting.
Rituals are not logical. Rituals do not make sense. And so I think we have let go of many of them thinking they are mere “superstition”. But I am all for cultivating ritual from the smallest to the biggest. What do I mean exactly?
Well, for example my friend Fejj passed away several years ago. He was a huge fan of Jameson Whisky. The good stuff. Now, whenever I have a glass of Jameson Whisky I take a moment to remember Fejj and pour a big slug of the whisky out on the ground. On the one hand it doesn’t make much sense! Fejj can’t drink that expensive whisky! The ritual does not make logical sense. It is just my way of respecting and honoring the memory of my old friend.
Ritual is everywhere. For example handshakes are a sort of micro-ritual. I have heard that anthropologists say that kissing is not universal. Many cultures have never heard of kissing between lovers and think it is weird and gross. But what a wonderful and meaningful ritual it is to those of us who practice it!
The more we look at ritual, that is the things we do, not because they have some logical, rational point—the more we see that ritual is everywhere.
Next week I will post about how you can design your own ritual to remind you of anything or idea that you want to focus on in life.