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FGS's avatar

What are your feelings on rites of passage?

Asked by FGS (1927points) March 30th, 2009

Be it painful, degrading, mentally and physically demanding or completely benign. Do you think that rites of passage are important in a society.

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21 Answers

jo_with_no_space's avatar

What a massive question. I used to write essays on this topic! I’ll keep it brief… rituals do serve a type of social function still, a kind of defining line between one state and another. It has always seemed to be important for human beings to be able to do this. However, needlessly cruel and excessive rites of passage (ie. I don’t know if you’re thinking about college/school initiations) still serve this function, whilst being problematic.

FGS's avatar

@jo_with_no_space I’m watching NatGeo (can’t sleep :/) and there is a documentary on concerning fairly brutal rites of passage in different societies. I was disgusted at first to see it until I realized the rites of passage that I myself have been through. When I was assigned to the Cavalry, one rite of passage was the earning of Cavalry spurs. I earned my spurs in ‘06. It was by far one of the most difficult and demanding things I have ever done both mentally and physically. Yet as challenging and sometimes degrading as it was, I endured it and came through it and I am a Cavalryman, along side my fellow Cavalrymen. The feeling of belonging to a select group is a very powerful motivator.

Zen's avatar

@FGS I know what you mean. But I think you have to separate the two: rites of passage in western democracies, and RoP in primitive, or third world places.

Getting a pin, wings or what have you in a military rite of passage, as rewarding as it is (and it is), cannot be compared to, say, jumping from a hundred foot tower with a vine on your ankle, or female circumcision, or the scarring and burning of your body with poison-tipped nails.

RoP are too different in these two different cultures, and should be looked upon as such. imho

jo_with_no_space's avatar

@FGS Yeah, I can’t imagine the level of nastiness present in military rites of passage :(

FGS's avatar

@Zen It wasn’t meant as a comparison but a realization that rites of passage exist in all cultures and that what may be repulsive to us, in a western society is deemed completely reasonable in others and that it should be looked at in that context.

Zen's avatar

@FGS I just read the question and wrote my opinion. It wasn’t for or against anything you’d written. It was just thoughts.

FGS's avatar

@Zen I took it as such :)

FGS's avatar

@jo_with_no_space It wasn’t so much any nastiness in the “Spur Ride” itself but the act of doing something that is completely voluntary, pushing yourself to the limit both physically and mentally. Allowing yourself to be degraded at times, knowing that you can give up and quit at any time but digging deep into a certain part of yourself that is not often tapped and pushing through it. I wouldn’t want to do it again but there is a supreme sense of accomplishment to say that I have.

qashqai's avatar

I loved when my father taught me how to tie my tie for the first time. I even kept that little tie, that’s one of my best memories.

aprilsimnel's avatar

It’s too bad that there are not rites of passage for young people in this country that would clearly demarcate the transition to adulthood and taking full responsibility for their lives and contributions to society. I believe it’s to our detriment that we do not.

Zen's avatar

@qashqai Lovely little heartwarming anecdote. Kudos. I love a little ditty like that amidst the flotsam of cynical rubbish in the murky depths of the internet seaway.

asmonet's avatar

No, I really don’t think they’re that important.

Zen's avatar

@aprilsimnel There is one. Drinking and driving.

qashqai's avatar

Because many people don’t use the tie, or cannot tie it appropriately, that’s even worse.

Zen's avatar

I used to wear a tie to work, and I loved them. Now I don’t have to wear them to work (it’s very informal here) but I still like them.

Poser's avatar

I agree with @aprilsimnel. In most societies throughout history, and even in many today, boys were put through these rights, and when they came out the other side, they were men, viewed as such by society, and expected to act as such. We put up with far too much tomfoolery in our young men, and allow them to act like boys well into adulthood. Sad.

wundayatta's avatar

I believe such rites are very important, and the lack of them is what causes so many problems with teens these days. Teens have no idea how they fit into society, and such aimlessness makes far too many of them into pleasure-seeking kids with no idea who they are and where they are going. Just check out many of the questions here, if you don’t believe me.

We need rituals to help young folks know they are appreciated and that they have an important role. It can’t just be military hazings, or even the pointless rituals of greeks. Rituals can’t be run by people of the same age. It just becomes silly.

I have no idea what the rituals should look like, but I do know what they should accomplish. Perhasp a year of national service, or a wanderjahr or something like that. The Mormons send young folks out into the world to spend a year trying recruit new converts. The folks are usually unsuccessful, but they learn a lot from that.

ANyway, in my opinion, the epidemic of drugs and drinking and behaving incredibly foolishly comes from two places, and those two places may be the same place ultimately. Teens want to understand love, and relationships, and alcohol and drugs facilitate experimentation along these lines. It is self-guided, so it is haphazard and more difficult than it should be.

Second, it can be hard for teens to find work, and the work they do find is some of the less well respected and remunerated. I believe that a ritual could help them understand how this fits into life, and give them hope or a vision of where they can be, if they stick to it.

Rituals can also help with depression and other symptoms of out-of-placeness.

Oh well. That’s enough for now. Plenty of meat for people to rip into.

jo_with_no_space's avatar

@FGS Yeah, I can see that. Most of modern American and British culture seems bereft of major rites of passage,

jo_with_no_space's avatar

@daloon You said everything I was thinking, and much better than I could face going into :)

wundayatta's avatar

@jo_with_no_space: do you have ideas about appropriate rites of passage for current times? I’m pretty sure that Wiccans would have some good ideas, and I know a number of women have thought about it for the onset of mentruation in girls.

What I wish is that we had a way to bind young people to the community. It’s very difficult though, because there are so many people, who are often isolated so they don’t even know their neighbors (or, if they do know them, they know them too well). We also have so many different religions that it would be very difficult to get people to agree on a ritual (which will have religious overtones).

jo_with_no_space's avatar

@daloon You’re right… old-fashioned rituals often smack of religious symbolism, which may well be unwelcome in a multi-religious society. And yet, “new” or “invented” celebrations can lack the air of authenticity and genuineness that a rite of passge should really have.

It’s a tricky one.

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