Rites of Passage

Rites of passage have been activities which bind communities together, providing a shared experience for members within its society. I’ve been getting into reading recently and stumbled upon this paragraph.

For at what other time in history did a society’s young undergo a searing rite of passage with which the previous generation was utterly unfamiliar? Normally, rites of passage help knit societies together as the young cross over hurdles and through gates erected and maintained by their elders, coming out on the other side to take their place in the community of adults.

How To Change Your Mind by Michael Pollen

In the context of How to Change Your Mind, the rite of passage that the author refers to is ingesting psychedelics. Traditional rites are typically established as a way of connecting the past to the present, of binding a community through a coming-of-age ceremony. However, the one the book describes is one that was created only for the new generation; a type of shared experience that the previous generations would not even be able to understand lest they experienced it themselves.

This got me thinking. What rites of passage do we have nowadays? From my perspective, school is one of the main shared experiences. When I meet locals, I tend to always ask which high school they went to, in case it was one that I was vaguely familiar with in any way possible. That way, you can ask if they knew so-and-so, if they were part of any clubs or activities that had competitions or tournaments, and so forth. University also tends to be an experience that’s easy to expand on, but it’s not necessarily something that everyone has the opportunity to.

The lack of explicit shared experiences outside of ones that are mandated by the government means that, although it doesn’t force us into specific activities, it places the onus on individuals to foster their own experiences to be able to relate to others within our communities. The shift towards relating to others with work, family, travel, or recreation emphasizes our own personality and luck, and may largely be influenced by our own socioeconomic position. While this expands the diversity of people in a society whose different experiences may offer interesting or unique perspectives on shared issues, there’s also a disconnect between different groups. People ultimately tend to associate themselves with individuals who are similar, as there are less cultural or language barriers to overcome.

Having arbitrary experiences or concepts which connect a broader community is, in my opinion, very valuable. Maybe it’s worthwhile to make some wild ceremonies within even my tiny group of friends just for the sake of having them.






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