|Blackfoot nation camp ca. 1900, photo by Edward Curtis via Steven Draper's Pinterest.|
When David F. Brooks says he's been doing something "recently" ("There Should Be More Rituals!")—
Recently I’ve been playing a game in my head called “There should be a ritual for. …” For example, there should be a ritual for when a felon has finished his sentence and is welcomed back whole into the community. There should be a ritual for when a family moves onto a street and the whole block throws a barbecue of welcome and membership.
There should be a ritual for the kids in modern blended families, when they move in and join their lives together. There should be a ritual for when you move out of your house and everybody shares memories from the different rooms there.—it's a safe bet he's trying to suggest he thought independently of the thing he actually bumped into in the book he'll reference in paragraph 6, in this case Creating Rituals: A New Way to Healing for Everyday Life by Rev. Jim Clarke, Ph.D. (also the author of Soul-Centered: Spirituality for People on the Go), 2011.
It's a funny subject to be working on right after the weekend shared this year by Passover and Easter. I went to a wonderful family Seder on Saturday—there were lots of kids, mostly under 6, for whose sake the ritual was drastically shortened, with one of those comic-book Haggadahs, and I think that's an improvement. More eating and drinking and schmoozing! And singing is OK too of course, but the lengthy explanation of everything benefits from a certain amount of editing. Presumably Brooks hasn't done any Passover rituals since the divorce—there've been signs over the years that he's not aware when Passover happens—but you'd think he'd be involved in some Easter observances with the churchy new wife, going to one of their hipster services. Yet no, here he is crying for more ritual on the most ritual-laden week of the year, and it's clearly the lengthy explanation part he values. Saying goodbye to every room in your $4 million house!
The central paradox of Brooksology is the way he vigorously believes in everything he doesn't believe. The wholesale abandonment of standard community ritual and insistence on inventing personal ones, or newly imagined communities—later in the column he suggests everybody in town should get together and sign some kind of Mayflower compact
on a spot that would become sacred, becoming the beating heart of the community. It could be an occasion to tell a new version of the town story—has so much hippy-dippy Maslovian self-actualization gobbledygook in it, everything he's inveighed against; much more than Abraham Maslow's actual thinking, which was deeply informed by an appreciation for real communities and the metaphorical and metonymic structures they use to order individual lives:
Red Crow Community Collegein like to talk about influential American psychologist Abraham Maslow. When he visited the Blackfoot nation in the 1930s, he assumed that there was a big difference between European knowledge, which he saw as rigorously scientific, and Aboriginal knowledge, which he saw as folklore.... Alberta
In some instances, Blackfoot science has been ahead of Western science. “Maslow thought a lot about his time with the Blackfoot, and you can see in his journals how that affected his thinking,” says Heavy Head.
For example, Maslow discovered that we only tend to our higher “self-actualization” needs once we address our basic survival needs. This pyramid-shaped “hierarchy of needs” appears to have been inspired by Blackfoot teepees, which depict a similar hierarchy, from the mushrooms struggling in the dirt along the bottom to the celestial beings depicted at the apex. (Via the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council)Bonus David Brooks Plagiarism Watch:
Brooks (paragraph 12):
There should be a ritual for that moment, often around age 27 or 28, when the young adult leaves the wandering post-school phase and begins to get a sense for the shape and direction of his or her life. That ritual could embody the elements that the psychologists Daniel Levinson and Murray Stein say are often involved in life transitions: naming your limitations, befriending your inner life, realigning your central focus. For example, young adults might create a life map of where they’ve been and hope to go, and present it to their peers (on Instagram, obviously).
Pretending to have read Levinson and Stein on his own rather than picking it up from Clarke, and completely misreading it: these four items aren't said to be "often involved in life transitions" but specifically applied to men of well over 27 or 28, or approximately David F. Brooks's age. He really needs to befriend his interior life soon because it's getting crazy in there, and trying to open up communications with him.