I read my first Robert Fulghum book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, quite a while ago, in my early teens. I enjoyed it but did not seek out additional books by Fulghum. However, last month at a thrift store, his book From Beginning to End: The Rituals of Our Lives caught my eye and I decided that for a dollar it was time to read more Fulghum.
Although I wasn’t sure how interested I was in rituals, I found the book fascinating. Fulghum is a Unitarian minister and he draws on his years of conducting various ritual ceremonies, ministering to a congregation, and observing patterns in human behavior to present a unique glimpse into how rituals shape our lives and how our lives shape rituals. He structures the book around different types of rituals, drawing on many anecdotes to illustrate his insights. Among the several propositions he makes about what rituals are and what they mean are the following, which I found particularly meaningful:
Rituals are frames around the mirrors of the moment.
The function of ritual is paradoxical: to both anchor us to high places on the steep slopes of this world on which we are always losing our footing and to free us from the despair of being stuck in the world’s mud.
Ritual behavior softens the phases of life when we are reminded how hard it is to be human. Ritual behavior enriches the phases of life when we are reminded how fine it is to be human.
I highly recommend From Beginning to End and I am looking forward to reading more by Robert Fulghum (as well as rereading All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten).