Ritual is rewarding. Discipline is freeing.
I sometimes think that people, especially Americans, have an odd moral stance against ritual and discipline. We want to be free, we want to go with the flow, we don’t want anyone else telling us what we should be doing.
But I find that the opposite is true. When I get lazy and decide to just “see what happens” during the day, I find myself at bedtime wondering where my time went and why I didn’t get anything done. When I take the time (usually only five or ten minutes) to plan out my day and think about what needs to get done and how I want to use my time and energy, I’m much more satisfied. It’s not all about productivity, though; discipline and ritual give structure and purpose to our lives. (Ever notice how if you don’t plan on including the big things, like spending time in prayer or with your family, they never seem to happen?)
My acting instructor often speaks of “guideposts” in a performance – moments or gestures or expressions that the actor relies upon to carry them through. For example, in the monologue I prepared for our midterm, one of my guideposts was an energetic breaking point where I would stand up and shout a particular line. It gave me a point of focus and a direction. When you find something that really works, my instructor says, keep it in place, set it up as a guidepost, and build the rest of the performance around that. Because while spontaneity is not a bad thing, all spontaneity and no structure makes for a wayward, unsteady performance. The combination is the key.
Similarly, I think that without structure, ritual and discipline, we are not freeing ourselves but limiting ourselves. Instead of actively engaging life and pursuing goals and relationships, we fall into the danger of letting life wash over us as we sit passively by.
These musings are prompted by a desire to add more ritual and discipline to my blogging, because I find that regular, small accomplishments are much more rewarding than sporadic ones (no matter how big or impressive they may be). As a reader of blogs I also find that I get more enjoyment from my fellow bloggers who write on a regular, dependable basis, so I can look forward to reading them each day or each week with the assurance that I won’t be disappointed.
I’ve tried to set up rituals for my blogging in the past and they have all fallen through. I’m going to start small and see where it takes me: I hereby promise to write something, even if it’s only a paragraph (heck, even if it’s only a sentence) every Sunday evening. I think that will be a good time to both reflect on the events of the week past and look forward to what’s in store ahead.
Aside from that, I’ll probably continue posting sporadically at various intervals during the week.
See you on Sunday!