What is a ritual?

Think, for a moment, about your condition — the human condition. You exist in the middle of eternity and infinity. You are somewhere inside a stretch of time that, for all practical purposes, does not have a beginning or an end. You are inside a stretch of space that has no known edges. These abstractions called time and space are all we have to define ourselves.

The other curious thing about being human is that we can’t let these abstractions be all that defines us. They are too large and too maddening to be of any use to our limited imaginations. So we make things up — we litter these abstractions with markers so we may make sense of the world we live in.

To deal with the infinity of space, we mark it with milestones, monuments, walls, borders, and boards. We use these markers to make sense of distances and to be able to tell “here” from “there”.

To deal with the eternity, we mark it with similar markers in time. These time-markers are rituals. Often, rituals are associated with religiosity of one manner or another, but their roots lie in human nature itself. Brushing your teeth every morning is a ritual. Calling your girlfriend at a certain point of time in the day is a ritual. A ritual is anything your day is marked with for purposes of keeping order in your life.

Why do we do all this? My guess is as good as yours. But if I had to guess, I would say it is because we CAN’T NOT do all this. We are conscious beings reacting to the environment we exist in in imaginative ways. It is what makes us human.


I adapted this essay into a video for Epified some time ago.

#religion, #religiosity, #rituals