Guest Post by Kevin Brown
In Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living, Dimitris Xygalatas brings a wealth of research about rituals, both from the laboratory and the field, but also a depth of passion and interest in a subject that doesn’t get as much study as it does reflection. He is honestly looking for an answer to the question his subtitle implies, as he understands that rituals don’t provide any practical meaning to our lives, but we seem unable to live without them.
Xygalatas delves into how rituals provide order to people’s lives and how they help people bond. He explores how non-religious rituals help people connect with something beyond themselves and why people are willing to sacrifice their time, their money, and even their bodies for such acts. He illustrates how rituals help one’s mental and physical well-being, even when there’s intense suffering involved.
Near the end of the book, which he wrote during the beginning of the Covid pandemic, he shows how even minor rituals are important enough for people to try to recreate, such as drive-by birthday parties and graduations, and how rituals must be flexible to continue providing meaning as our world changes. He differentiates between ritual and habit, revealing how we all need a source of purpose in our lives, whether religious or secular, and how rituals that don’t make much sense to those outside of a tradition help us find that purpose that encourages us to keep living and growing.
Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living by Dimitris Xygalatas
Little, Brown Spark, September 2022.
Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. Twitter @kevinbrownwrite