Sunday, November 06, 2005

The hallowing of the everyday

To what extent do rituals enhance or stultify mindfulness? I am certainly ritualistic in my own life: What would I do without my daily sunrise walk to school, for example. Familiarity with time and landscape means any little variation stands out against the background of the usual. I remember too with some measure of nostalgia the liturgical cycles of my youthful Catholicism -- the canonical hours of the day and the sweeping grandeur of the liturgical year -- the colors, sights, sounds, the sacramental substances and songs that were an invitation to engage with the diurnal and annual cycles of the sun. But on the testimony of friends and writers who have lived the rigorously liturgical life of the convent or monastery, rituals can become an end in themselves, an impermeable membrane between the seeking self and the thing sought. It is a tricky thing, I would think, to balance the commonplace with the exceptional, the endlessly-repeating cycles of the natural world with the soul's quest for growth, so as to keep the senses on edge, taut and perceiving. See this week's Musing.