Friday, July 28, 2006

Lost Rituals

We have become a very casual society that values style over substance, and (in some ways) that serves us well. On the other hand, it has cost us our rituals. Unless you belong to a fraternal order, go to regular religious services or meditate, you probably have little contact with rituals, and you do not benefit from the calmness and sense of connection they bring.

Not so very long ago men stood when a woman entered the room or removed their hat when meeting another person. These little rituals kept us connected to respect for the feminine and one another. Now, the hat-rituals are limited to what direction the bill of the cap faces (backwards if you jog where red winged black birds attack--usually from behind. This confuses them. But, I digress).

Rituals, acts that are repeated the same each time, also tie our souls to the Sacred.

Interestly, the calm and connectedness one feels after doing a ritual can be explained physiologically (read The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson). By participating in a predicatable, repetitive act during which no interuption is allowed, we let go of something that binds us to the secular and attaches us to our Core.

Rituals, once learned and mastered, also insure comleteness as there is less and less chance of leaving something out with growing familiarity. Consider, then, creating your own ritual around paddling. I refer here to two possibilites:

1, Acknowledge the water of life upon which you are about to embark and ask for safe passage. A Native American act of give back is to put down tobacco when taking anything from Mother Earth (plants, animals and even Grandfathers--rocks--for the sweat lodge). Perhaps you might wish to take the last of your drinking water (hopefully clean) and, at the end of your paddle, offering it back to the Water as a give back or make up for the pollution our kind has created.

2, A preflight ritual. When I was in F-105s I noted that, even after 100+ missions, every pilot went through a check list before even starting the engine because a simple act of omission could be fatal. I also know that in my profession, medicine, the most common error is the error of omission...simply forgetting to count toes or asking a vital question (Why didn't you tell your doctor you have that rash? She didn't ask).

Such a pre-paddle ritual will assure that your hatch covers a really closed, that you have that tow line for the one time your partner poops out and the wind is up and that the battery in your radio is charged enough to get out your "May Day". It can mean life.

Besides, it's good for the soul.

Paddle safe...each time.



JohnB said...

Ah yes, rituals. . .and you know when you don't follow what is normally a ritual:

Your fly will be down when you get up to give your speech, and there's no podium to hide behind.

Or, your running late to a meeting, but first you have to pee really bad. . .damn I'm wearing khakis, there's no dryer just paper towels and I just splashed water on the front of my pants as I washed my hands! Really. . .

Or, there's no paper towels or dryer in the restroom and you go to shake someone's hand and try to convince them that it's water and the restroom was out of towels.

Or, getting to the paddling theme near and dear to us, you don't fully check the hatches and you discover during rescue practice that no one else did either and the inside neoprene covers are missing, not from one but both hatches!!!! Happened to me with one of my students this year at DCSKS!!! Arggggghhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

Silbs said...

Yeap, John, life can be nasty when we don't pay it enough attention :)