Joseph Campbell, the comparative mythologist, talked about the importance of rituals. In the time/space of modern life, community can be fractured. High-density living trends toward anonymizing people. The migration of human beings creates a cultural diaspora, which can make it difficult to connect on the simple problem of miscommunication, both linguistically and through customs.
Rituals, personal, within family, and in a larger context, give texture and meaning to life. Ritual does exist today, albeit it in a severely altered form. We have coming of age events, recognition of seasonal change (ex. Christmas (winter solstice) and Easter (Spring Equinox) in Christian traditions), wedding ceremonies and marking the passage of time (birthdays). I feel like many of our modern rituals are often more procedural, lacking depth and profundity. However, we can craft our own rites, full of substance, full of immediacy and significance.
Seeing live shows is one of the bonding rituals my mom and I have. It’s not a hardship since we have the same taste in music. In fact, she’s typically quicker at recognizing awesomeness than I am. We have sing-alongs in the car on the ride to the venue, and on the way home. If we go up to LA for a show (common occurrence), she arrives in her hi-ho silver Prius, texts me from the alley. I rush down the stairs and slide into the car and start my navigation duties. We’ll stop at Golden Road Brewery for a bite to eat, and some delicious beer before heading to the venue.
In August, we saw the National at the Greek. We’ve see them a few times, but this time was different. During the show, I received an email from a friend, letting me know her husband was in the hospital. Ed, one of my favorite people in the world, and the closest thing I had to a father, would die a week later. This heaviness and the intensity of the performance the National gave combined to create a strange, disjointed, but transcending experience. The emotional vitality of the music became a conduit, and an outlet. The angst, and the release.
Then a bit of magic happened. For their last song, the National performed an acoustic version of Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks (as they had been across the country on this tour). Six thousand people sang together. As alone as anyone was/is in life, during the song we were a community of voice, present and grounded in that special moment.