Summer is filled with rituals: Memorial Day, Father’s Day, graduations, vacations, and kids out of school. There are a lot of events we can use as markers. It’s a good time to think about where we’ve been and where we’re headed.
Most of us can track our lives by these celebrations. We can remember beach barbeques or giving a tie to Dad. We can remember when we stopped giving ties and only went to the beach. We can remember when we stopped doing both.
Holidays give us something to track. For some this will be the Father’s Day without Dad, the first Independence Day without Mom or the first summer where the kids have flown the coop. It’s actually important to find new ways to celebrate our holiday markers.
Often we want to go back to the good old days. This is nothing new. Confucius wanted to back to the good olds days but he meant 300 years before his life. He wanted to back to the times of Emperor Yao (~2300 BC). He wanted a government without corruption.
To a corrupt feudal China, Confucius brought a message of honor. In direct opposition to the intrigue and decadence of his time, he emphasized ethics, morality and family values. His “five virtues” were kindness decorum wisdom faithfulness and honesty
Probably the oldest Confucian ritual is ancestor worship. He envisioned a prescribed series of activities designed to commemorate the lives of your deceased relatives. It’s like a Memorial Day or All Saints Day but with less flexibility in what you do.
The emphasis Confucius placed on tradition and ritual is supported by modern cognitive psychology. People like structure. We like routines, consistency and predictability. Our annual holidays and celebrations bring us comfort, and a connectedness to our families and to the past.
As Confucius noted, the challenge is to make it your own. Track the changes in life by the hallmarks of summer but don’t go back to the good old days. Start something new.
Reframe the events. Life has changed this year. It changes every year. Most years the steps are small. This year may have been a big jump.
Yes, this is the first Father’s Day without Dad but it is also the first Father’s Day for your new tradition. Try something new. Go somewhere Dad didn’t enjoy. Eat something Dad would have hated.
Remember life as it was and as it is now. You have the past and the present. You have two hands. Hold one in each.