Saturday, November 26, 2005

Rituals - mindless wandering because it's snowing

Every year on Thanksgiving morning I watch the Macy's parade. On Christmas Eve I usually go to a church service - candles, music, no sermonizing. New Year's Eve I watch the ball come down in Times Square. Shortly thereafter I have a birthday and whatever decorations are in the house are put away. This ritual has changed little over the years. There used to be trips to the grandparents and my godmother, but they're dead now so the visits are memories.

Rituals also exist in other ways. Our society and culture impose rituals on us. Wikipedia in its entry on ritual states that "rituals can have a more basic sociological function in expressing, inculcating and reinforcing the shared values and beliefs of a society." Weddings, graduations, and football games all include ritual.

We all have personal rituals that center on specific dates or holidays. Some of these grow out of our culture or belief systems. We also have rituals that are more private and hold an almost mystical quality such as repeating a series of actions before an exam or always wearing a particular outfit to job interviews. These type of rituals are designed by us to increase the probability of a hoped for result.

So I'm sitting here watching the snow fall and wondering if mathematics isn't one huge ritual.

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