When I was growing up in the 1950s and early 1960s, I remember dreading many social rituals, especially those that had to do with death. I felt a funeral or memorial service, for example, was more to hide grief then help us face it. It felt like we, society, were going through the motions but had lost the substance. That was one of the messages I remember from the 1960’s, and afterwards; we needed to restore meaning to our shared social institutions.
Since then, our nation has developed new rituals or revived old ones, maybe ancient ones. Recently, I attended a memorial which was called a Celebration of Life of the deceased. A participant called it a tribute. Instead of the service being led by a Rabbi or Priest, someone paid to do it and not closely known to the people involved, the event was led by the husband, daughter, and friends. It involved laughter and photos shared, tears shed, and songs sung by family and friends.
But mostly, it was an afternoon of heartfelt stories. Instead of a campfire, we all gathered around our computers for a Zoom ceremony. And we were treated to great tales, some we knew, many we didn’t. The person came so alive to us. It was a sort of a resurrection, but without any religious attachments.
We valued the person and saw how valued they still were by so many. And this reminded us of our own value. By honoring one person in this way, the humanity of all of us was revealed, in a depth and breadth we hadn’t often felt before. We remembered how amazing a mother and dear friend she was, and suddenly felt befriended and loved. The deceased was seen in a larger dimension than many of us had often seen them. And in this realization, we ourselves were raised into a larger dimension.
Several good friends mentioned the deceased was very politically engaged, sincere, and committed, clearly illustrating with their life that the personal was political. How we act in our personal lives, with friends, family, and neighbors, is the root of the type of society we create.
The same thing is happening today with our political involvement, as is happening with some social rituals. Many of us had previously felt that who governed mattered little. That the voice and interests of the people were not being protected. That voting was an empty ritual. Or maybe, because we didn’t participate or weren’t allowed to, the ritual of politics lacked truth and meaning.
*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.