Ritual is powerful. It is larger than us, rising above our family and our friends to encompass something much more. We take comfort in ritual, we acknowledge it, and we let it guide our decisions.
Ritual works hand in hand with belief to pass traditions from one generation to the next. It can be the glue that holds society together, or the wedge that drives different groups apart. It can keep us in line, or it can lead us to jump outside of the normal pattern of behavior. It can comfort us in times of stress, or it can be the stressor pushing us down a road we don’t want to go.
Ritual drives us forward as a group. It ensures that we step together, towards a common goal. It lets us believe that we can be the master of our own fate, even if the ritual invokes a higher power. It joins us together in a common experience, breaking down the barriers between the one and the many.
I write these words on one of the many days we’ve created rituals for in modern society – the last day of the year. We consider it even more special as the decade ends as well. For parts of the world it has already passed, and for others the night has yet to wane. Some have already participated in the rituals associated with the new year, and may just be sipping champagne in celebration right now. Some have woken up and started their day (I’m sure one or two has already broken a resolutions). And some may be on their way home from work, looking forward to the celebration to come.
We have seen the standard posting of “The Best of 2009″ lists in the last few weeks. And we’ve seen people predict what will happen, both in the year and the decade to come. Those too are rituals we have; they celebrate our accomplishments, reflect upon our tragedies, and allow us to imagine a bright future.
Regardless of who or where you are, the rituals we’ve created as a society touch your life. You may take comfort from them or seek to flee from them; either way, we must acknowledge their power. We have seen these things before, and we will see them again. There is something grand in that, if only because it touches all of us.
Don’t you think so?