Monday, 22 November 2010

Empire State of Mind

Last week was mad as I crammed in a full week of work in 67% of the normal time allocated so I could take off for almost a week to go celebrate a special event in my brother's life. It was definitely worth it despite coming back to another hectic week of deadlines. We were all in New York for my brother's wedding and it got me thinking and what follows was the result.

Rituals are a key part of this life whether we are religious or not. This is in part because rituals have symbolic value. In the case of a wedding it is a public declaration to friends and family about a major decision on how we intend to live our lives. What made this wedding particularly special was not so much the family tie but other thoughtful elements. Let me a share a couple with you to give you a flavour of what I mean.

In the States, it is possible for the marriage ceremony to be taken by a friend who has secured a special license that enables them to be the celebrant for the day. In the case of my brother and his wife, they chose someone who had lived with them for a few months and so was able to witness their relationship in close proximity. The words she shared with us resonated because they described the couple that we knew and loved. More than that she had the ability to make the ceremony meaningful for all those of us who were married and in a way gave us the space to reflect on our own relationships and to renew our vows silently if we so chose. It was very well done.

One of the other highlights for me was the cookie bake, the morning before the wedding. Mainly women from both families gathered together for the activity. Beforehand I had assumed that one of the main reasons was to provide my two small children, both girls, with something to do. In fact it enabled me to have a real conversation with the bride to be as well as get to know some members of her family. At the end of the session, those who took part in the baking and decorating had made the favours for the wedding and my two girls got to ice and try a cookie each, which was just as well as despite prompting us to take one with us as we left on Saturday evening, we still forgot!

Although Empire State of Mind was not their first dance, it was the first song they played after the marriage ceremony and a remixed version came later. I love that song and the sentiment within it certainly rings true for me and my brother. He because he met his wife there and has experienced the can do culture in the work place. For me because it has been an important city for me over the last ten years for a number of reasons.

There are many other little details I could mention but I think you get the idea and as I hinted there is a bigger picture here too. We need rituals as a way to celebrate key moments in our lives so that they stand out from the routine of daily living. It gives us the opportunity to glimpse the universal truth that we are all connected to something bigger than ourselves. Rituals are also the only effective way to break bad habits. So what rituals have you created or been part of that have enriched or even changed your life in some way?
Photo was supplied by jsbanks42.

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