By Blaney Pridgen
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
In my previous article, “Funeral Ponderations, “I suggested several matters we often think about at funerals. In this article, I consider what we might ponder at three other important rituals of our lifetimes: weddings, baptisms, and graduations. But first, let us consider the smart phone camera. The ubiquitous use of them at these occasions spoils the solemnity for others. This is especially true when the phone is either hiked up over heads or extended out into the aisles. The person fiddling with the phone spoils her or his opportunity to reflect upon the meanings, ramifications, and questions that the ritual arouses. They probably will have none of the thoughts I suggest, and their rude behaviors will interrupt the musings of others. Let us remember that the memory banks of our heart and mind come from our Creator. Samsung and Apple come from China.
At least three thoughts might bubble up at the weddings we attend. Beneath our happiness for the bride and groom, we may grimly find ourselves pondering divorce and hoping that this marriage will be among the minority that last. Divorced persons and the other victims of divorce walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Divorce, in their minds if but for a moment. On a brighter note, married couples attending a wedding may find it to be an occasion for a renewal of their vows. Memories come up of their wedding day. The bride and groom’s celebration can be an intimation of the peace and love a seasoned couple enjoys. Hopefully, married individuals reflect on their own marriage during a wedding: what is good and what might be made better. The rituals of our lives serve a lot of purposes. We might also have some worthless thoughts. Women accustomed to the styles of bygone days might ponder the clothing of the wedding party. What were they thinking? The men may wonder if there will be an open bar at the reception.
Baptism suggests a lot of important rituals. For most of our readers we picture either an infant or a pre-teen sprinkled or immersed respectively in the name of the Trinity of Christian tradition. However done, this is a rite of passage for parents and family as well as the individual. Ideally, it is also a rite of passage for a larger community witnessing the event. Everyone is pledging support of the baptismal candidate in their walk in faith thereafter or should be. Similarly, most Christian traditions, have rituals like dedications, first communion, confirmations, and public professions of faith, which amount to variations on the theme of baptism. I could go on with rituals from other faiths traditions like bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs of the Jews and the “ordeals” of some Native American religions. Ordinations are somewhat like baptisms in the setting apart of ministers, pastors, preachers, and priests to function for Christians pretty much like the mullah of Islam or the rabbi of Judaism or the shamans of any religion, past and present. What do we think about when we witness any of these rites of passage? Hopefully, we reflect on the futures of the candidates and the futures of the communities which surround them. We want the ritual to in a sense “take” and prosper the faith community with a new generation of disciples. As we all know but seldom utter, sometimes the magic works and sometimes it does not. We ponder such matters at baptisms in all of their many forms.
I am particularly touched by the specter of grinning young parents at the infant baptism of a first child among some of the “31 flavors” of Christianity. I can’t help but think: This couple is clueless to the commitment they have made. In the raising of this child and loving them on into adulthood, what heartaches and financial disasters will they incur? In the faces of sweet little babies, we can imagine mean-spirited teenagers, wastrel college students, grandchildren adrift in the morass of divorce and the mid-life death of an adult child. Just saying. We think about these things, but we don’t mention it to anyone, and we shove them out of our minds as quickly as possible.
Consider graduations. They have the potential of becoming antidotes to the poisons of the previous paragraphs. I believe graduations can spring hope to mind with no misgivings. In this regard, remember all the forms of graduations, not just those with diplomas, but certainly them. Promotions, commissionings, elections, and awards are advancements like graduation ceremonies. When we are present to them, we have thoughts and musings about what can be that is good, not only for the recipients but also potentially for ourselves. Such private thoughts are to be savored and enjoyed.
Here’s a final note on something else that we ponder at these rituals. We might wonder how much did that cost? This is true when we witness extravagant weddings. This is especially true when we contribute to that cost in any way! This is also true at graduations from college, university, and professional school. We live in a nation that does not really and fully afford higher education, especially for those who need it the most. Who of us does not wonder how onerous the burden of a student loan rests upon the happy graduate? There’s a thought for us to ponder. We cripple our brightest and best before they ever get started upon the path of vocation. Why? Nothing shoots the foot of democracy more violently than ignorance bourne of the lack of educational opportunities. I digress.
Next time we attend a significant ritual, we might do well to put away the smartphone and pay attention to our thoughts.