From Community to Ceremony or Ritual

Having treated “Community” as the ninth of the “10 C’s” we are now ready to treat the tenth “C” which is: Ceremony or ritual. 

“There is no community without ceremony and ritual.”  This observation by African teacher Malidoma Some is so real and so important.  If we want community it is good to engage in and design lively ceremony and ritual.

Sobonfu Some, the late wife of Malidoma Some, speaks about the importance of ritual in Dagara life. Uploaded to YouTube by Odyssey Impact

Community includes the sharing of all in the tribe—the sharing of joys and sorrows.  It includes the building up of strength and courage to carry on.  All this takes place in ceremony and ritual. 

One African American woman, interviewed about her days in the Civil Rights Movement fifty years ago, said, “Martin Luther King took the fear away from us.” 

That is what made the celebrations and ceremonies in church with Dr. King so effective; they displaced fear with courage and set the marchers on their way.  It also shows the powerful effect of authentic elders (even though King did not live to reach the age of 40). 

Kristen Hawkes of the Leakey Foundation discusses her “grandmother hypothesis” that elder women spending time collecting food and sharing it with their grandchildren might explain why humans have such long lives, and may have led to other ways in which humans differ from other great apes. Uploaded to YouTube by TheLeakeyFoundation.

Ancient peoples taught their children primarily through ceremonies.  Ceremonies were intergenerational; the elders assisted the young.  This working together of elders and youth is needed today on a grand scale.  But one of the most serious problems we face is that we have had a loss of eldership, thanks to the breakdown of community and the destruction of indigenous communities. 

The older ones today, not having themselves undergone rites of passage and other transformative ceremonies, are in a bad place to be leading the young  Furthermore, in Western cultures especially, the elders often choose to “retire” away from and separated from the young, effectively leaving the young to fend for themselves.

“Sunset couple.” Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash

I believe the word retirement is one of the most obscene words in our lexicon.  We ought to replace it with “refirement.”  When adults reach an age when they no longer have to fight daily to make a living for themselves and their family, they ought not to retire but rather get themselves “refired up”—find new life, new visions, new invitations to serve the younger generation.  That is what wisdom is always about after all; it is something passed on from generation to generation.  Many are the young people today who yearn for elderly companionship, direction, and guidance. 

Indigenous elders share how they pass on cultural traditions and practices and an understanding of natural history through storytelling. Uploaded to YouTube by The Gift of Language and Culture program of the McDowell Foundation.

But elders are too often hard to find.  Many are lost on the golf courses, or in the financial money-making marketplace, rather than being in touch with the new generation.  Not only do the new generation need their wisdom and presence among them, the need is mutual.  The fire of the young can re-fire the adults.  The refirement of the adults can fire up the young and assist in giving direction to their passion. 

We need ceremonies at all times of our lives: At birth and at death, at puberty and at marriage, at divorce and at retirement/refirement, at graduations and at healings, it is part of being human to seek out and receive gifts of ceremonies. 

Adapted from Matthew Fox. The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human, pp. 136f.

Banner Image: “Storyteller, Midwinterfair, Archeon, NL” Photo by Hans Splinter on Flickr.

When in your life have rituals or ceremonies played a powerful role in healing or awakening or deepen community?

The A.W.E. Project: Reinventing Education, Reinventing the Human

The A.W.E. Project reminds us that awe is the appropriate response to the unfathomable wonder that is creation… A.W.E. is also the acronym for Fox’s proposed style of learning – an approach to balance the three R’s. This approach to learning, eldering, and mentoring is intelligent enough to honor the teachings of the Ancestors, to nurture Wisdom in addition to imparting knowledge, and to Educate through Fox’s 10 C’s. The 10 C’s are the core of the A.W.E. philosophy and process of education, and include: compassion, contemplation, and creativity. The A.W.E. Project does for the vast subject of “learning” what Fox’s Reinvention of Work did for vocation and Original Blessing did for theology. Included in the book is a dvd of the 10 C’s put to 10 video raps created and performed by Professor Pitt.
An awe-based vision of educational renewal.Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, Spirituality and Practice.

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1 thought on “From Community to Ceremony or Ritual”

  1. Avatar
    Barbara Schwartzbach

    Love the concept replace retirement with refirement ❤️?❤️ Yes inter generational connections needed.

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