The Language of Ritual
According to cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Ricardo Gattass, the 4 kinds of thought are Verbal, Abstract, Analytical and Symbolic.
I believe Ritual to be one of the most powerful languages of Symbolic thought.
Like myself, you probably grew up rejecting conformity with every ounce of your being. It's the mark of every Baby Boomer. “Just be yourself, man. Do your own thing. You gotta be free, man. Open up.” But the price we paid for this pursuit of individuality was our loss of the language of ritual. In demanding uniquely personal self-expression, we gave up the quiet beauty of this majestic language of the soul.
We threw the baby out with the bathwater.
Admittedly, “values” are private, abstract concepts. But we are defined by our values, nonetheless. We create rituals and traditions to remind ourselves of what we believe. It is only when our rituals are no longer tied to our values that they become tired and empty.
I began to think about all this during a New York lunch with my friend, Lenny Kramer.
Every day since his mother passed away a number of months ago, Lenny has arisen at 5:30AM and traveled across the city to say a memorial prayer for her at his place of worship. Lenny will do this every day for a year (except for the Sabbath, when he will rest until time for services at 9AM.)
Traditions such as these have a profound impact on our sense of identity. Saying in your heart “Family comes first” is easy. Saying it with your mouth is even easier. But rolling out of bed at 5:30 to begin a cold journey in the dark is how a ritual uses physical action to solidify and “make real” an abstract belief.
Do you suppose that Lenny Kramer will have any trouble convincing his children that he treasures them – his family – more than he treasures his own personal comfort?
You may not think that you have rituals in your life, but I can assure you that you do. Perhaps you have rituals concerning the beginning of a New Year. If not, has the time come, perhaps, to create one?
The magic of ritual and tradition is that they remind us of who we are and where our lives are headed.
Who are you, and where is your life headed?
Roy H. Williams