76: Your ceremonies

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What value, if any, do you put in ceremony?

Show notes and links:
Coffee, Mesmerism, and Morning Routines | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios (YouTube)
Institutionalized Organizations: Formal Structure as Myth and Ceremony (JSTOR)
Symbol, story, and ceremony: Using metaphor in individual and family therapy. (APA PsychNET)
Rituals Alleviate Grieving for Loved Ones, Lovers, and Lotteries (Journal of Experimental Psychology)

Full episode text

A few weeks ago, the question of the day was about government putting stock in ceremony – which raised this question of what kind of value each individual person, rather than an institution, may choose to place in it.

In a 1984 paper in the Annual Review of Sociology, the authors quite rightly point out that while society in general and sociologists in specific tend to view religious and ancient society as ritualistic and symbolic, while modern life is assumed to be “dominated by secular, matter-of-fact, rational culture and organizations.” However, ritual and ceremony still plays an incredibly important part in our everyday life.

Ceremonies are, after all, rituals of significance. From morning coffee to the ceremonies that mark large life changes, our individual lives and wider cultures are steeped in and created by the rituals and ceremonies we all choose to engage in. After all, what is going to vote, making a cup of coffee, signing marriage paperwork, getting your first driver’s license, or graduating from something but a type of ritual? Mike Rugnetta from PBS’s Ideas Channel does a great job of breaking this down in the December 2014 Ideas Channel episode on coffee, mesmerism, and morning routine.

Some of these ceremonies we have more choice in than others. And a ceremony is not always required to engage in a ritual. But a little pomp and circumstance – quite literally sometimes – seems to come with the territory of interacting in society. Research even tells us that, even when we don’t believe in them, engaging in ceremonies can help us process difficult emotions.

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