“Ritual is the enactment of a myth. And, by participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth. And since myth is a projection of the depth of wisdom of the psyche, by participating in a ritual, participating in the myth, you are being, as it were, put in accord with that wisdom, which is the wisdom that is inherent within you anyhow. Your consciousness is being reminded of the wisdom of your own life.” – Joseph Campbell
Our lives are filled with ritual after ritual. And yet rarely do we stop to question them and ask why they are so important.
Why does the Thanksgiving turkey matter (It’s $2.28 a pound at Safeway, after all, so why all the fuss)?
Or Mary’s famous Mac n’ Cheese at the annual company potluck party?
Or the wee wafer the priest gives Catholics at communion?
Or your college friends’ annual weekend in Vegas?
Or your dad wearing the same ugly sweater every year when he opens the presents around the tree?
Hint: It’s not about the turkey or the ugly sweater.
It’s about the ideas behind them, especially the human connection part.
It’s about actively renewing commitments to our shared beliefs. It’s about instilling a sense of unity around common values. It’s about celebrating the meaningful things in life, the things that sustain us year-round.
It’s not just myth that shapes culture, myth IS culture. At the macro level (civilizational) to the micro (e.g. company culture and values), mythological narrative and the rituals surrounding it are what holds it all together.
As we approach a season with more rituals than most, we’re pondering what our own rituals are, at both work and in life. Do they matter? Should they matter more? Serious question.