The importance of ritual

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!

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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.

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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.

2 Comments on “The importance of ritual

  1. Hello Anthony,
    I read your post about the passing of your beloved dog. I can understand how you may be feeling about rituals due to that. I too have had the same experience on several occasions, and it truly does hurt your inner being. The last dog I had was about ten years ago.
    You see, my son had this habit of allowing me the privilege of taking care of and/or inheriting his animals. The last one was a beautiful Samoyed mix, and he was pure white, and he fur was long on the outside and his undercoat was quite dense. His name was Wolfgang, but we called him Wolfie. My son happened upon this dog while he was stationed with the Navy in Rhode Island. He was at the post office and he had parked his car next to one that had this gorgeous dog in the backseat of someone’s car. He had told me that a girl was coming out toward the car and he said that he thought her dog was beautiful. She then asked him if he wanted it, and he could not believe that someone would be willing to give this dog away. But she had told him that one of the Navy personnel had left for other duties, and that she was going to get the dog as soon as possible when she was situated in her new post. That never happened and I guess this girl needed to find a home for the dog, because she was soon to be deployed elsewhere.
    Well, my son was more than eager to help her out, and just put the dog into the back seat of his car, and that was how we became owners of this magnificent dog. My son, Kyle even slept with it. Wolfie was treated like a little king. Kyle would have him groomed monthly and he always looked amazing. Wow…I do tend to go off on tangents, so I will just add this…..
    Our pets are a part of the family. And when they are hurting, we hurt. When they pass on, they take a piece of our hearts with them. And no matter how long of a time it is since the passing, it can still feel as if it was yesterday. I don’t think I will ever fully get over the passing of Wolfie. He became my constant, loyal, faithful and loving companion. He had been through more with me than any guy I had ever dated. And we talked to each other, and he followed me around like crazy at times. So, yes; he will always be in my heart and soul as have other pets that I have had the pleasure of owning.
    I wish you all the best in coping over the next several months, because it does take time to begin to heal. And once you start to feel that you are able to cope better on a daily basis, you will find yourself smiling when you think about your precious friend.

    Sincerely yours,

    Carmela

  2. Dear Anthony,

    It feels right to address you by your first name because you feel like an inspiring and big-hearted friend. You have become a dear friend through your writing and this home on the web.

    My husband and I send our deepest sympathies. To have been loved by a dog is a Grace like nothing else in this world and we hurt for you. As one who believes in the resurrection, I hold out the light of trust that you and your beloved Grendel will be reunited again. Once I read of a man’s NDE–his heart had stopped and he had started a life after life journey. He said that when he reached his destination that every dog he had ever loved since childhood flocked to him. They acted like they had only been apart for a few hours–like he was just getting home from school or work.

    You are in our heart, Brother.

    Peace,
    Deana

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