Rituals (with your homies) make life worth living
9 tips on co-creating rituals to build interdependence & deepen your relationships
I’ve realized that people living in capitalist societies, especially in the “west”, are exceptionally alienated (me included). Many people lack meaningful connections beyond nuclear families, romantic bonds, sporadic interactions or superficial friendships. Here — we all struggle (to some degree) to maintain consistent community or deepen relationships and it is common for people to go long periods of time without any genuine contact with another human (work doesn’t really count).
Isolation is the default infrastructure- from folks working alone to living in cement boxes separated from their neighbors with little to no threads tying them to each other. Here, it is “normal” to schedule hangouts weeks or months in advance because people are too busy to be together regularly. Many find it uncomfortable to talk to a friend on the phone, let alone spontaneously visit each others homes to drop off a warm, hearty home-cooked meal or some coconuts because you picked up way too many. Most of us spend the majority of our day… alone, which is WILD if you think about how we’re supposed to exist.
Community was often more accessible to me earlier in life. But, it became distinctly harder to navigate as an adult worker. Thinking back to my childhood, it was ironically much easier to have consistency in my friendships. The younger I was, the more me and my friends prioritized our relationships as though nothing else mattered more. I had far less agency than I do today, less access to resources, less autonomy given that I lived in an abusive household, knew less about the world, and despite all that… intuitively, me and my friends built a strong, consistent, reliable, stable foundation for our relationships.
For example, when I was 10, I was living in Dammam, Saudi Arabia under unideal conditions. But everyday after we got back from school, my friends would come knocking on our door at 3 pm so we could go to the park or dusty playground and play till sundown. Everyday. That was our ritual. We devised our own games, rolled around in the dirt, created fun out of thin air and there was no greater purpose to life but relishing the mere presence of each other. In those moments, I was fully present and reminded of what truly matters in life. Despite the crushing conditions we faced in our respective households, school or the nuances of oppression we were all navigating as migrant children in the diaspora— we had each other and it anchored us to life. It made us want to be alive. It ignited hope in us for tomorrow. Those shared rituals captured the essence of life itself.
I remember waking up every morning WANTING and YEARNING to see my friends again because when we sat on top of the seething hot, metal, park slide watching the sunset over the red sand dunes… nothing else mattered but the bond we shared, the sun basking over us, and the Arabian desert beneath us. Our relationships were THE priority. Do you see what we did? We had rituals. Without intellectualizing anything, instinctively, we were drawn to devise a relational structure that allowed us to care for each other more consistently. Even as children, we were committed to supporting each others day-to-day survival and that… made all the difference.
Were there any rituals earlier in your life that people came together to make happen and in retrospect, they infused your life with meaning and hope? Even if it wasn’t as intentional or something simple, any shared communal rituals that helped ground you?
Some quick housekeeping before we continue…
Thank you to the folks that support the mutual aid fund by being paid subscribers. I appreciate you endlessly. If you aren’t yet & are able to, you can upgrade to be a paid subscriber with these quick steps.
You can now sign up here for this month’s Heal in Community Session! Paid subscribers: your 100% discount code is at the bottom of the newsletter.
CONTINUED… The crisis of meaning under capitalism
In individualistic societies, relationships often become mere accessories to life rather than being the main focus of it. Even if people are well-acquainted and have big social networks, the quality/ depth/ intimacy/ reciprocity of each bond is questionable. This is in stark contrast to how collectivist communities function which makes me wonder why? Why is it so hard for people to build community? I think one reason is that capitalist infrastructure is designed for alienation and isolation. Another reason is the lack of culture and regenerative collectivist traditions for people to root into. So people are often born into, raised in, surrounded by a dominant societal structure that devalues, deprioritizes, demeans, dismisses and distracts from genuine community. The “work family” or gathering around an authoritarian institution (like some oppressive religious structures) can’t make up for that. This means we have to be very intentional and purposeful about forging meaningful relationships and pay attention to the details… the specifics of what we need to do to find, cultivate and sustain these bonds.
Rituals are a helpful, tangible, simple framework to deepen relationships. We need consistency— but the kind that we intentionally co-create, not the kind we’re forced into like the daily work grind.
The older I get and the deeper I am forced to dive into capitalism’s belly- the more removed I am from community, the more severed I am from culture, and the more disconnected I am from my ecosystem. From childhood to college to “adulthood” when I become a full fledged worker, the infrastructure of my life changed dramatically. The next thing I knew, I was lonelier than ever. It happened gradually— so slowly that I didn’t notice they pulled the ground from under me. That yearning, motivation and hope I felt as a kid against all odds… can be so difficult to access today.
So at the end of a long, exhausting, isolating day many of us are left wondering… “what is the point of it all?”
Directly caring for each other & supporting each other’s survival… gives us meaning in life
We do need meaning to WANT to be alive. This yearning and desire for life comes from being rooted in community [which I define as a collective of reciprocal relationships within a local ecology where the survival of one is intimately tied to the survival of another]. We need an anchor that grounds us and gives us a reason to wake up in the morning- this purpose can only come from community.
We’re meant to grow food to sustain each other, build houses for each other, and be directly dependent on each other for survival… instead, under capitalism, we are left chasing “independence” which really is our severe dependence on oppressive systems and the state for survival. Many of us spend a good chunk of our day in isolation, doing tasks that support a profit-driven, exploitative institution far more than they directly aid a living being that we intimately know and care about. We’ve been so removed from directly supporting another being’s survival so it makes sense if many of us are left wondering “what is the point?”
A simple but profound realization— we need to be interdependent because the daily acts of care that support other people or the lands survival are THE thing that gives our lives purpose. When we’re not directly caring for each other, that true and genuine PURPOSE is so hard to grasp. We’re often left desperately searching for meaning in our jobs or in something else that we can do in isolation but ultimately- that is unsustainable. Without consistent community, we’re left feeling like an untethered feather aimlessly flailing in the wind.
So what IS the point of it all? To care for each other. To know each other… deeply. To be with each other and care for the land that so generously supports us all. To work towards a collectivist infrastructure where rather than isolation, interdependence is the norm. Granted, we can’t go from isolation to commune overnight so this is a muscle we need to collectively build, strengthen and flex.
“What is the point of life?” I ask to plants whose mere presence makes oxygen-breathing life possible on this planet. So there they are, photosynthesizing, grounded, supporting each other through underground root networks. Their existence itself is an act of care & that is where their purpose comes from. That is the purpose we need to return to. While many folks may have nuclear families with some level of internal dependence- these “units” are still isolated, othered & often severed from their external environment. The nuclear family structure was built to create more consumers and lonely, easily governable, susceptible, oppressed subjects. If you’re interested in diving more into that:
Rituals as a framework for building interdependence
We need rituals to survive. They ground us. Think of rituals as the building blocks of a collectivist community. To practice sustaining each other, we start by co-creating rituals that help us regularly, consistently, intentional share time/ space together TODAY.
Whether we are playing together or tilling the soil to plant seeds… it is smack in the middle of these moments of care that we realize why we are alive. As our hands are submerged in the soil together and we are doing something in real-time that is supporting each other’s daily survival, that’s when the most profound healing happens. The type of healing that will not come from overthinking, dissecting, intellectualizing, analyzing or studying our problems. I’ve written a bit about this before:
In western societies, a lot of socialization revolves around consumption. People get together to “do something” different like try a new restaurant, watch a game, go shopping or they gather occasionally to celebrate select milestones, achievements, holidays etc. People hangout if they have spare time and then return to their day-to-day life which is largely spent fixating on tasks alone. Often, s**t has to hit the fan like a major crisis that is even more distressing than our absurdly normalized baseline level of stress… for us to feel compelled to reach out to people for support. Otherwise, the baseline frequency of communal interactions is sporadic. For some, the most distressing, painful and vulnerable times are when they are most likely to isolate and pull away from people.
Rituals are not about doing something exceptional together. They are about the everyday. How can we do the most mundane of things together to help make each other’s lives more livable?
Even today, getting together to cook a meal regularly is a shared ritual that can begin to ground us and make life more livable right here, right now. Sure, I can eat every single meal alone without directly interacting with anyone. THAT is what makes this difficult— often, we don’t HAVE TO see each other to survive under capitalism but at what cost and what kind of survival is this? Capitalism has stolen that interdependence from us (strategically because that is how it thrives)— therefore, we have to intentionally create it. And in the process of engaging in these rituals… we are creating a resilient, more stable, revolutionary infrastructure to support our communities in the long run.
9 lessons I’ve learned on how to co-create rituals (even under capitalism when time is of the essence & we have finite energy):
It may not be intuitive and that’s ok. We may need to be VERY intentional about it and that is a good thing.