May 26, 2007

War-dances, and similar...

One of my children asked: What's with "renewing marriage vows?" Don't people know how to keep a contract? I don't renew my library card unless it's expired...

I replied:

You are not using the right tools to analyze this stuff. The analogy is not to renewing a library card. The analogy is to Injuns war-dancing around the campfire before going into battle.

Why do such an illogical thing? Because on some deep level humans respond to ceremonies and rituals. And to a thousand other non-rational clues. For instance, young people often respond to the ceremonial of a high school graduation by taking on a new level of maturity. And their families respond by looking at them somewhat differently, and expecting more from them. None of this can be quantified or "proven," but it seems to be true.

The trouble for conservatives like me is that our belief that things like old ceremonies are valuable can't be demonstrated, so it is hard to defend such things in the "culture wars." For instance, people are forever inventing new ways to get married, such as underwater with scuba gear, or by fudging up a hippie "new age" marriage ceremony. I think these are REALLY bad ideas, that harm all of us, but I can't easily point to any specific harm done.

Actually it is very easy to forget marriage vows in the rush of events, like raising children, and so reminders are a good thing for anyone. You and I would both tend to avoid hokey ceremonies, but it might be better to endure them if it would do us or our spouses good.

(Being a Catholic is VERY good discipline for people in this regard, by the way, because it gives one daily practice in remembering what's really important in the midst of life's distractions. Often by means of ceremonies, ancient texts, smells, sights, postures, beads, music, etc. Crazy, like a war-dance, but it works. And doing it repeatedly works--we are our habits.)

My theory, by the way, is that a lot of the deconstruction of traditional ways that we see is, mostly unconsciously, socialism. That is, people want to destroy the old ties of families, clubs, churches, private schools, because what they really want is to atomize people, and have everyone dependent ONLY on the state.

I should explain again, though I'm probably wasting electrons, that I value things like ancient ceremonies NOT because I'm someone who wants to "turn back the clock," but because I think we are all being hurled at hideous speed into change and into the future, and we need these things as tools in our toolboxes precisely for coping with the new and the unexpected.

Imagine that someone grabs you and stuffs you into a time machine, and sends you 100 years into the future. There is no way to prepare for the specific things you will encounter. (And it is certain that they will be bewildering and frightening.) But you can be philosophically prepared by being grounded in universal truths and in authoritative traditions...

Posted by John Weidner at May 26, 2007 11:58 AM
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