Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Civil Rites

For “R,” I'm listening to Rage Against The Machine's first, self-titled album. I've listened to their other three more recently, and it was high-time I dusted this one off. Besides, Tim Cummerford is one of my all-time favorite bassists. I didn't have anything for “Q,” so I reverted to Pearl Jam's “Yield.”

Back when I was attending Church, there was a perceived dichotomy between spirituality and Religion, the former having to do with personal experience, and the latter being dry, prescribed Ritual. A conversation with a Believer at work last week showed that the distinction is still a hot-button topic. While I lean more towards a Gnostic belief, where experience is more important, I'd argue that ritual shouldn't be dismissed out-of-hand.

Part of my daily ritual is to spend the first 45 minutes of my day reading Blogs and drinking coffee. A couple days ago, I over-slept. While I made it to work on time, I was really thrown-off by not getting that predictable, slow wake-up time.

Another one is dressing; I won't put on work clothes until about twenty minutes before I'm due to leave, and it gets me into the right head-space for retail. Likewise, when putting on my 'grubbies,' I'm more into cleaning or yard work.

We use such rituals for Calli's comfort too: 7:40 is bath time, then a lotion rub, then a last feeding as she dozes off. Of course, that's flexible, but she goes to sleep pretty well now, and I'm guessing that the routine helps.

From another point of view, I heard a story of a non-practicing Hindu who's mother had died. He had been an Agnostic academic type, but for the funerary rites, the sons were required to wash the body. I think it sounds absolutely ghastly, (and it made me glad that I'm not a Hindu) but he found the experience to be very cathartic, and was more at-peace when he was done.

From a Christian point-of-view, it's good that they're focusing more on the relationship with their Maker, but if I went to one of your services, what would I see? I bet it goes something like this: A few songs, prayer, more songs, prayer, message, prayer, songs, dismissed. Why is this formula so popular? Because it works! Dozens or hundreds of people can be brought into accord, because they're all led into the same rhythm, and that syncronicity is powerful, like a concert, or a sporting event.

Of course, nothing is etched in stone (anything stiff is either dead, or close to it!), but rites and routines can be useful in their place as tools to get someone in a desired head-space. What little rituals are you using?


  1. I've many rituals that get me through the day - some days they feel more like ruts, but I like consistency in my life.

  2. Apart from getting up and switching on my laptop for the challenge, my ritual is to actually get out of bed.
    Throughout the day ( most days) there's the ritual of housework, shopping, but the best ritual is listening to my relaxation cd.

    Have a lovely day,

  3. Will, I really liked this post. You offered some great points. We all have certain rituals in our lives. And you're absolutely correct that while Christainity does focus on relationship, our services do have pattern.

  4. Ritual, obviously, plays a big part in my Spiritual practice. Do I don a robe and wait until the stroke of midnight? Nope, my Rituals are very Earthy. I consider being completely present with anything you are doing is a Ritual in and of itself.

    Great post Will.

  5. We are creatures of habit and ritual because for the most part the entire universe is coordinated and structured. When something chaotic occurs the results can devastate for a while but fall back into a pattern. Because the world turns at the same pace, the seasons come at the same time and it the same basic way, and my bodily functions operate on a relative schedule, I get up each day and perform my certain rituals-- some very basic and necessary to survival or to stay with the norms of society, and some very contrived and artificial such as blogging or watching a favorite TV program. I sometimes like to think of myself as a sort of non-conformist, but in reality I conform to my own needs and wants and the things I have to do for others around me.

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  6. God's Word - every day! I feel lost if I haven't read my Bible everyday. I really enjoyed this not so routine post. :)

  7. Interesting post!
    Routines/Rituals are what makes the world go round I suppose.
    And as for kids... they thrive on routine. My 3 year old likes knowing what is going to happen next, I think the predictability makes life easier for them. My 10 month old has pretty much the same routine as your baby girl and it works!
    I get a bit OCD with routines/rituals... There's a VERY specific order in which I do things, and if one step is skipped it can mess with my whole day - but I'm working on that ;)

    I'm with Lisa on reading the Bible every day - I see it as my "guide book" for the day.