Super Rituals (February 7, 2012)

super bowl party

As I get older, I am starting to realize that social and cultural rituals for which I used to think I was too evolved are beginning to adopt personal meaning.

I am not speaking of the big markers of the annual societal calendar, like the November/December holiday season. I simply have too many family and failed romance issues to get down with that period. Besides I hate the cold and the push to spend money I don’t have.

The touchstones to which I am referring are of the more mundane variety: St. Patrick’s Day, the annual Oscars telecast and the Super Bowl. I want to BE somewhere on these days, feel a sudden urge that I don’t experience at more obvious times to participate and belong. What is it about a community of strangers that can make one feel so at home?

I experienced the now familiar lure this past Sunday. As a huge sports fan generally, and an NFL devotee more specifically, I have always enjoyed the Super Bowl. Once you take into account the commercials, National Anthem suspense (will the chosen singer forget the lyrics?) and Halftime Show (Madonna!!), the whole glittery spectacle is almost too much to resist. And with any luck, the game will be dramatic too, as the latest Giants/Patriots faceoff certainly was.

I met a couple friends at a popular Wrigleyville bar, a place I had never been, but on this day it didn’t matter. Every inebriated Chicagoan was an instant pal trying to assess team allegiance, looking for potential kinship and maybe an excuse to buy a shot. It’s like all the eye contact avoiding, brisk walks and dehumanization that can often serve as the hallmarks of urban life take a time out upon which everyone has silently agreed.

I used to think that those drawn to participate in the corporate-enhanced mass market rituals that comprise American culture just so didn’t get it. Couldn’t these lemmings see they were being preyed upon under the guise of collective enjoyment?

Yet paradoxically as I gain life experience and heartbreak, become more used to disappointment, these ceremonies inspire a childlike suspension of disbelief in which I am wholeheartedly willing to engage. Perhaps that is the point of rituals in the end. Everyone needs a break from isolation and introspection. Sometimes we just need something to celebrate.

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