Why do we need rituals?
One ritual most of us are familiar with is a wedding. Is there any detectable change in a person one day before and one day after they are married? No doctor could detect a difference. Even so, if you have been married you will probably agree that the change was instant and profound.
The difference is one of perception. A partition is built between “before” and “after.” Once one passes through the gate there is no going back. No matter what happens from that time on, the partition will be there forever.
Sure, marriages end, but even that is signaled by another ritual – a new partition is built. People who have been married don’t forget they were once married. In their minds, time is separated into before the marriage and during the marriage and after the end of the marriage.
A ritual is the gateway. It is what lets us know we are in transition. We walk across the stage to get the diploma, kneel down to present an engagement ring, say “I do,” hold our children’s hands as they step into their first day of school, and tearfully watch the coffin close… and once it’s done, once we move through that gate, we are always going to exist in a new world – one in which we have a degree or a commitment, or have let go of the baby we held or the presence of someone we love – and the world will never be the same again.
Maybe this is obvious to some people. To me it was not. I have spent a good chunk of the last week trying to understand why I felt so drawn to the idea of a having a ceremony to commemorate a rather vague but important transition in my life. Now, I understand what it is I need. I need to walk through a gateway that separates my entire life, up to this point and the rest of my life.
On the other side of that partition is a life free of the old wounds from my father. To completely let go of all of it – all the pain and anger and sadness attached to those old wounds – I need to etch that profound moment in the timeline of my life.
Establishing exactly what the ritual is about and why it is important are two of the biggest pieces of planning the upcoming ceremony. I have more work to do, but I’m getting closer to being ready.