I have been struggling terribly with this post, probably starting now for the third time, which is typically an indication that something is not working and I should just scrap the whole thing. But for some reason, I had to see this post through to the end. Put it to paper–the good, the bad and the ugly. This post is about ceremony but not really about ceremony. It’s about two events that make me swell, that choke me and bring me to tears–high school assemblies and hymns.
For many years I was associated with the independent school world, both as employee and parent. I tried hard, both figuratively and literally, to keep my distance when in my children’s environment, but I went to assemblies, most all assemblies. “Assembly-dress” required that all students don their blazers, school ties and khakis for the guys and the girls hopefully covering their asses with their ever-shrinking skirts. But something happened when they put on that blazer–not to them but to me. The students were no more engaged, no more aware than before, but I saw the achievement pins on their lapels and a touch of the ceremonial that spoke importance. I could see hope rise from their mass and fill the auditorium. I choked most every time I watched the students come into that space, regardless of the topic or show, and I could not wait for the lights to dim so I could cry.
And hymns. I know I’m not alone in this regard, hymns make a lot of people cry. I hear the organ, the piano, and I feel a monstrous obstruction in my chest, leaving me with just enough air to squeak out a syllable that’s supposed to be part of a song. That’s it, that’s all I can do. I hold the hymnal to my chest and try to listen to the others sing but the obstruction has now moved to my ears and all sounds are jumbled. I stand and cry, recovering just in time to begin crying again with the services’ second song. I have no idea why. I am not at all religious, but hymns, and ceremony, move me to some sense of faith, a conviction and trust in all that is right and good, perhaps. And hope.
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