ritual: letter from the editor

Χάος is one of my favorite Greek words. Not only is it fun to say, pronounced from the back of the throat kind of like hawking up a loogie, but it also translates to “chaos,” and describes perfectly one of my favorite Greek phenomenons: recess.

At the school I taught at in Athens, when the classroom doors were flung open for that glorious 25 minutes each morning, the children loosed themselves upon the school grounds in all directions, yelling, running, climbing on everything. They were unsupervised, learning the world on their own. Still. In the wildness, there was ritual: the teachers, locking ourselves in the little office rooms, all of us together eating treats or drinking tea, while we heard the banging on the vending machine that always failed to fully deliver up the snack. 

Χάος,” one of my coworkers would say, unbothered by it all and making no movement to change it. The windows were open; it was breezy and light and OK. In an existence unconcerned with time, she relaxed into the chaos. Everyone did.

This connection between chaos and ritual interests me. Sometimes, life can seem like Greek recess where anything can happen, and the daily rituals of our lives offer order and pause, giving meaning and shape to the chaos of our world, our lives, our hearts. Other times, our lives can feel mundane, and rituals call us into the challenge of wondering anew at the mystery of the dailiness of life. What moves routine from its mundanity to the sacredness of ritual is intent. So let us be intent on our lives, offering attention to each part of it.

In this issue, we enter into ritual. We think about the ritual of the body as we hear from a doula about bearing witness to new life, from restaurateurs about nourishing others and from children about playing. Through our photo shoot, we consider the beauty of summer traditions while reading about rituals that are important to local women. And we reflect upon what the process of farming might teach us about the day-to-day of our lives.

Rituals are not boring. They are not the mindless recitation of repeated habits over and over and over again. They are not dead things that cannot breathe or have life. They are not compulsory, stiff or trite. Quite the opposite.

Rituals open up, they take our hand and lead us deeper into what is holy, divine. They make a way through the wilderness, and through them, we bring meaning to the ordinary, give shape to the chaos of our lives. They are constant, steadfast, faithful. They remind us of who we’ve been, show us who we are and reveal to us who we might become if only we let trust lead us. When we change, they do not. We can enter into the routine, the repetition, the longing, and rest. 

As the rituals of our days renew us, let it be enough, your life. And as it is enough, give yourself to it. Inhabit it. Spread out. Take up space within it. Expand to the right and to the left, making room for others. Make room for others. In your tent. They are coming, to people your deserted places, to bring back the shouts of joy and songs of jubilant triumph. Sink in your roots and open. You are not rebuked or reproached. All your places will be given over to hope. 

Rituals provide rhythm. This summer, dance and rest and sing in all the places.