Wednesday, March 28, 2012
I've been thinking about the comfort I take in rituals and habits lately, not least because of the funeral I went to on Monday but certainly not solely either.
It began when I heard Alain de Botton being interviewed on ABC radio's Conversation Hour about his new book, Religion for Atheists. Now, this isn't the sort of title I'd normally jump at but a lot of what he was saying made sense to me, particularly when it came to creating a sense of community. He seemed to be suggesting (and I haven't yet read the book) the rituals of religion give people a reason to come together in a way that doesn't exist elsewhere.
While secular society has other get-togethers, such as sporting clubs, baby groups or school communities, you have to have a common interest to belong to one of those groups and often those interests won't span socio-economic groups like religious gatherings can. I'm pretty sure I don't know any financially strapped yachties, for instance.
He wasn't suggesting anyone not religiously inclined suddenly turn to God (de Botton is an atheist himself). Rather, that society should borrow or steal similar rituals (taking belief out of the equation) and use them in a secular way. Not unlike the way Christmas is successfully celebrated by making it a time about family and friends.
Monday's funeral was a case in point for me. It was a secular ceremony and friends and family ran the service so every word uttered was by someone who knew Jeremy well. They painted a lovely picture, which was colourfully added to later with a wake in the family's (cul-de-sac) street. It was a beautiful goodbye.
I'm no Alain de Botton but I do take comfort in many of the small rituals of our life. Every morning, my husband brings me a cup of tea, and I see that as a small gesture of love. I've no time for commercial festivals like Valentine's Day but many years of morning tea speak the world to me.
As does the daily gathering of doves on the back fence waiting for my (and the seeds I'm carrying) arrival. The way that every afternoon the sun falls on our rangy and rather scruffy old grevilleas and makes them glow is another small constant that warms my heart.
Life can be very short, so I'm determined to take more notice of every bit of it while I can.