Rituals: Mapping the Self

As I was watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, I was struck by how all human beings seem to need ritual of some sort, so much so that many of us create rituals that we live by each day. With the word "ritual," I don't necessarily mean the religious rituals that may come to mind but the repetition of certain acts. Rituals seem to bring us comfort, whether they involve certain acts that we perform before we go to bed, for example, or things we must do before we leave the house. Rituals make us feel safe, they bring to us the sense of the familiar, even when they occur away from home.

So what are my rituals? I walk the same route almost every morning. That's not to say that the route never changes--in fact, I have changed it somewhat over the years--but it pretty much stays the same. My morning walk brings me a great deal of peace. It is a time when I can reflect on life, make plans for the day or the future, daydream, and/or just appreciate my surroundings. As I walk, I often mark the progress of home renovations, houses for sale, or gardening updates. It's a way of mapping myself into my surroundings.

As I think of other rituals I've created (reading the morning paper, checking email, thinking about my day before I go to sleep), I realize that they all make me feel connected to something other than just myself. Sometimes that connection is to something amorphous and undefined, yet, like my walks, they position me in a specific place, they help me understand where I am geographically, emotionally, intellectually.

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