Ritual is necessary for us to know anything. – Ken Kesey
At my best friend’s wedding, I was able to anticipate the various components of the ceremony. Because we are familiar with the components that make up a wedding service, we can expect to see the bride walk down the aisle, an exchange of rings, an officiant ready to bless the union. We can smell the floral bouquets the attendants carry, and hear the vows the couple speak. We know what a wedding is because we have seen them happen in film, on TV, and in our own lives. We know what happens next because the ritual of marriage remains more or less the same as we move through time.
The Comfort of Ritual
Rituals bring meaning and perspective to our lives. They help us create a sense of continuity, of purpose, to and between experiences. Rituals give us something to lean on, to mark time, to commemorate. Rituals bring us together, providing a common language with which to connect and understand our experiences and each other. Rituals provide predictability, a sense of sameness that can make us feel secure in uncertain times. Because we often look forward to the consistency that comes with pleasant rituals, whether it’s the cake and presents at the end of a birthday party, or capping the Christmas tree with a generations-old gilded star, our joy can be heightened and shared. Even rituals that mark somber occasions, like the procession of pall bearers at a funeral, can bring us a sense of our united humanity. Rituals remind us that we are in this together, that the journey of life is made more poignant, more powerful, by the rites by which we mark it.