Last night, our family dinner was spent watching the Royal Wedding in London. To preface this, I have to tell you that we NEVER watch TV during dinner time. It is a sacred time for us to be together as a family and hear each other’s voices utter more or less meaningful contributions to the conversation – but none the less: TV is banned. And yet, last night we sat there and watched Will and Kate move down the aisle at Westminster Abbey.
Thinking about what has been occupying the airwaves lately, there seem to be a tendency to allow ourselves to side track from the serious issues. Whether we spend endless hours watching the Royal bliss, never-ending discussion over birth certificates and school records, who gets to marry who, or if business men who are known for brash comments and risk taking should run for president . Why this side-show? We live in a world where hunger, exploding population numbers, complex and expensive wars, ever increasingly more aggressive weather patterns, budgets that burst at the seams, bail-outs from governments that are like patches applied to the global economy. The reality surrounding us is much like an old car tire that keeps blowing out from being thinned by overuse and continually gets patched, re-inflated and put back on the car. Well, it is an increasingly bumpy ride! And we keep having our vehicle pull over for more and more frequent pit stops!
Yet we sit and watch the Royal wedding – 1.1 million visitors from all over the world showed up in London to be packed in the streets and took part, and an estimated 2 billion people worldwide watched the spectacle on TV. Imagine if we could rally such global interest around a cause such as world hunger or incentives for reducing CO2 emissions…
Might we be too inundated with information all the time and thus overwhelmed? We can find viewpoints that state conflicting scientific data, and debate is often based on a need to win the argument rather than true exchange of perspectives looking for commonality and solutions. Choosing sides over relatively simple issues such as birth certificates and school records is easier to focus on than how to feed the growing world population in ever increasing more perilous natural surroundings of floods, hurricanes, tornados, storms, draught patterns, etc.
We find solace in the shared rites of passage, such as the big spectacle of the Royal Wedding. We delight in the display of tradition, and the return to a simpler era: Horse ridden carriages, ministers in full regalia, choirboys singing their hearts out, ladies in hand-stitched gowns, men with funny hats and uniforms saluting and behaving properly. We delight in the feeling of communal celebration of new hope, new life and new eras symbolized by the fine-looking couple. We enjoy the absence of divisive issues and apply our own imagination to the deep recesses of our soul as we vicariously live through the spectacle of being in the fairy tale.
I think we need symbolism. We need rites of passage. And I think through connecting to something outside ourselves we find a joy in belonging to a community beyond partisan bickering. I believe this need is neglected in us. We do quick and efficient Las Vegas weddings. Rites of passage for our youth are less and less meaningful (or have simply been reduced to getting a driver’s license). But true community and coming together around a symbolic celebration of the stages of life are missing elements from our lives.
So what would our world look like if we took time to re-connect to some of the rites of passage of our past cultures? Or if we consciously worked to develop new ones that would have meaning and would feed our need to belong and to be celebrated? What would our youth feel if they were put to the test in a social context and not just tested and measured for individual achievement? How would we all benefit from having a sense of connection to each other through shared experiences of our common humanity?
We all hold the answers. And paradoxically maybe we might have more hope to address the global issues surrounding us, if we consciously work on surrounding, celebrating and caring for those close to us. And they in turn do that for us.