Ritual and The Everyday

We live in a ritualized world. To me that seems very basic; however, I do not think we consider this that often. When I walk into a restaurant, I can generally anticipate what will occur. I can do this because of ritual. My world is thrown out of whack when the ritual is not followed. A good example of this is when you call a business and the receptionist picks up and just says, “Hello.” Although such a statement would be normal calling a person, we all know that such a remark in a business call would not work– not just inappropriate, but actually mess up the normal modes of communications. Ritual. It’s the stuff life is made of. Every culture (and subculture) creates its own rituals.

Religion and spirituality is about ritual. These rituals distinguish, separate, create, identify, and even destroy (destruction of former friendships, identities, rituals, etc.). In this way, religion creates the sacred, or more accurately names what is sacred and what is mundane or ordinary or profane. Over the past 500 years, much of what western religion deems sacred revolves around what I call moralisms. In other eras (and in other cultures here in the present), religion often revolved around other aspects of life (such as food, crops, government, military, etc.).

What I find most interesting is that in my current privatised, individualised western culture religion and its ritulas can often be relegated to just a section of life rather than a holistic system of everyday existence. In our dualist culture, singing “religious” songs is considered holy or sacred whereas dining together is considered common/mundane. Baptism is considered a spiritual act but a drink with a friend at a coffee shop or pub is considered ordinary, even profane. However, if all of life is a set of rituals perhaps all of life can be sacred. Mowing the lawn might possibly be a “spiritual act” if the proper rituals are assigned to it by a community/culture.

How do we make the ordinary sacred? The usual answers will not suffice: praying over a meal does not make it sacred for the meal itself should be sacred itself– at least in my opinion. The prayer is another ritual that occurs in the midst of the ritual of the meal. I think that something else must distinguish a sacred meal from a profane meal (probably much more than just one thing). What are these things?

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