Can rituals save us from loneliness?

Where can we find meaning in a materialist world?

The festive season is coming – Winter Solstice, Christmas, the New Year. Rolling over into January, we have the 25th in Scotland to celebrate with whisky and haggis the poetry of Robert Burns. Then there’s Bridgit’s Eve, or Saint Bride’s night, on the 31st.

At the risk of bringing on refrains from Burns’ Tam o’ Shanter, pursued by witches, what all these share in common for me is summed up in an old expression, “a good funeral”.

I don’t know where your cultural reference points might lie, but in Scotland I’ve observed two things about a good funeral. First, there is the obvious: the provision of beverages. As a Ros Levenstein advert had it in the early 1970s, “I’m only here for the beer.” But second, and pressing deeper, there’s the spiritual spirit.

A “good funeral” can be a fleeting but enduring portal into deeper life. Human minds work differently when we come together round a common cause for conste

Continue reading

Enjoy unlimited access to the world's leading thinkers.

Start by exploring our subscription options or joining our mailing list today.

Start Free Trial

Already a subscriber? Log in

Join the conversation