I attended the funeral of my husband’s godson yesterday. A man stricken down too early with cancer – he was only 55. He lived most of his life in a country with questionable medical services (as with most “free” services offered by Governments, you only get what you pay for). But that's another story entirely.
Most of his living siblings were in attendances, as were their children and grandchildren and his remarkable mother, who may still outlive her children. The youngest girls were dressed in white, carrying wreaths. After the coffin and the congregation had been welcomed to the church, they and a young boy carrying a cross led the mourners into the church.
Whilst the service was in French (with which I have, at best, a dodgy relationship) and Creole (which I can speak and understand), I was able to follow the priest by following the order of service. I dutifully stood and sat when directed by the priest. However, during the many recitals and hymns, my mind began wandering as I observed the mourners, the majority of whom would had been raised in the Catholic faith, which is predominant in this country.
My mind started wandering to the source of the strength which people display in times of sorrow. It is evident that they lean not only on one another for comfort, but on their beliefs and their faith, to help them come to terms with the death of a loved one. There are certain rituals which are followed, and these rituals also appear to be a source of comfort – perhaps the main source.
My wandering mind then had a bit of a hiccup. Aren’t rituals sort of …… well …. pagan and kind of ….. well …… devilish or witch-ish ?
I made a mental note to check this further and this morning I consulted the trusted Wiki.
Wiki describes a ritual as :
“a stereotyped sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered place, and designed to influence preternatural entities or forces on behalf of the actors' goals and interests. Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rituals are characterized by formalism, traditionalism, invariance, rule-governance, sacral symbolism and performance.”
Wiki continues :
“In psychology, the term ritual is sometimes used in a technical sense for a repetitive behavior systematically used by a person to neutralize or prevent anxiety; it is a symptom of obsessive–compulsive disorder.”
I would not normally use copy and paste or quotes from another source, but these seem to be relevant to what I was witnessing at this funeral. I have highlighted the word “influence” in the above passage as I found this particularly interesting.
Were these mourners trying to influence someone to take this person to some other place which would be better ? Were they trying to influence themselves to believe that someone would come along and take him to a better place ? Were they trying to influence themselves to believe that there is, in fact, a better place ?
If the church is full of people trying to use their influence, is the influence stronger ? What will happen if there are only a handful of mourners and therefore not much influence ? Surely the omnipotent being they are trying to influence should be above being influenced by mere mortals ?
But back to my wandering mind of yesterday. Reality check. The collection plate was being passed around and it was time to pay up. Another ritual and more influencing. If you can only afford a small influence, is your influence diminished ? Is whoever you are trying to influence even aware of the size of your influence ? Should you feel guilty if you cannot afford any influence at all ? Is this not emotional blackmail ?
The above only reinforced in my wandering mind what I had known since the age of 15 : my strength comes from within and from my belief – in myself. I don’t need a crutch to get me through life.
All I need is the love of my family and my love for them. They will get on without me when the time comes – with loving memories and no rituals.