In Custom and In Ceremony

The Irish great W.B. Yeats posed many interesting questions to the cosmos. Not the least of which was: why is the pay for poetry so incredibly shit?  On another, more lyrical day, he asked: how but in custom and in ceremony is beauty born? Personally, I think he was onto something.

The world, as you know, is groaning with the weight of Ugly and sustains relatively little Beauty. This could very well be, as Yeats’ query implied, down to a shortage of custom and of ceremony.  Or, more specifically to our era, a lack of appropriate custom and ceremony.  Our rituals tend to be terribly anachronistic and, just as lamentably, lacking in good buffet.

Weddings, baptisms, graduation ceremonies; all of these events tend, in Australia, to be either half-arsed or improperly grand.  The marriage ceremony in particular is often fruity and uneven and does not speak to its participants with any emotion that is more real and nourishing than a Happy Meal. Oh. Jesus. I hate weddings.  Particularly when Bride and Groom mash cake into each other’s face. What is this portion of the ritual alleged to represent? The mutual worship of gluten?

Weddings are crap. Twenty-Firsts, for the most part, are sodden in rum, bad pop and vomit. The formal end of High School is not much different and is only distinguished form the Twenty First  by the quality of spew. And, christenings? Well. What the mouth are they for? It seems terribly silly to moisten an infant. Actually, you really have to wait until you’re dead to enjoy a ritual that is truly stirring.

Funerals are, generally speaking, the only occasion in which a featured guest is properly respected. Although, even funerals can be about as appropriate to their honouree as a herding is to cats.  At a memorial I once attended for a very cranky atheist, Jesus was mentioned an awful lot.  And, we sung hymns. Well, I didn’t. Out of respect for the departed, I muttered, “Satan is My Dark Lord and Master” instead. It seemed only right. The Jesus stuff may have been an act of vengeance by the dead man’s wife.  Whatever the case, the service was not apposite.  There was no beauty born in this ceremony; there was the death of truth.

It is this dwindling in many of our rituals that can partially account for the crap state of the world.  The crapness of the rituals, and, by extension, the crap state of the world, is not entirely down to poor party planning.  It is not so much that the rituals are shit; although, for the most part, they are certainly. Rather, it is the life events that rituals recognise that are all completely wrong.

Weddings are generally meaningless. Tell me you haven’t been to one and thought, “I give these dicks three years”. Similarly, graduation is fairly meaningless. Unless one has several graduate degrees, higher-learning means squat. Similarly, turning twenty-one, being born or actually dying are all fairly everyday affairs.

We should learn to commemorate more special events in our rituals.

These may include rare occurrences such as squeezing money out of one’s parents; a feat I am yet to achieve. Or, avoiding low-nutrient, high-energy foods for a sustained period of time. It is very difficult to avoid hot chips and this temperance should be rewarded. As should making someone belly laugh, achieving visible biceps and reading that boring shit that Proust wrote.

These are all singular acts and achievements that are far more difficult than dying, getting married or being born. I urge you to celebrate.

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