I happen to be writing this on the tenth anniversary of the attacks of 9/11/01. There are all sorts of articles in the newspaper, documentaries on television, internet blogs and tributes, ceremonies large and small in communities across the United States. The reaction of people I know to this melange varies from indifference to disapproval to participation to immersion. It’s an interesting study in how people approach memory, remembrance and ritual.
Ritual factors highly in Judaism. It is used to bring meaning to both the sublime and the mundane. There are prayers to recognize extraordinary occurrences and for the completion of everyday tasks. Having ritual in a time of crisis can lend a sense of direction and comfort when confusion and indecision reign.
As a therapist, I have come to value the usefulness of ritual in emotional healing. It can provide structure when one is struggling to find some sense of meaning in pain. When meaning can’t be found, ritual can help in the gentle settling-in of acceptance. In the end, the form and factor of the ritual is not important to anyone but the one who creates and enacts it: the ritual must simply speak to and for the individual in that particular moment.
So today I don’t feel the need to watch the televised ceremonies and documentaries, nor do I feel a communal yearning to bond with my fellow human beings. I haven’t pulled out the clippings or mementos stored away for ten years. I haven’t copied and pasted any of the myriad status updates floating around the internet. I haven’t told the story of where I was “when” or what I did “then.”
Today I simply wrote this essay.