I am totally sucked in by the series Lost, thanks to my brother-in-law, who let me watch the series finale...yep, that's how I rumble. I also glance ahead to the end when I read books and I do it because it feels good.
So, I'm watching the second season of Lost and it's all about this hatch thing that they have found on the island. If you don't know the premise of Lost, here it is: plane crashes on island, some 40+ people survive the crash and live on the island and bunches of odd things happen. Ok, so they find this hatch and in the hatch is this man who has been living there for 3 years, pushing "the button" every 108 minutes to prevent an explosion to the island, because he was told, quite convincingly, that is what would happen. After he is discovered, the computer crashes and doom prevails. But really, seriously, pushing a button ensures their survival? They aren't taking any risks, they quickly get the guy who fixes computers, already the masses believe. Only one man, the leader of the crash survivors, points out the nonsense of this practice and yet, even he can't resist pushing the button as the clock ticks down, mere seconds away from...well, from who knows what, because it doesn't happen (maybe it does in a later season, feel free to tell me if you know...).
Of course this made me think of religion - what doesn't - and the practices we do, just in case. Whenever I get on an airplane, even days before, I pray, pray and pray...and I look for signs. There was the one time the kid with the Book of Mormon stood up from his seat, looking very focused and I was certain he was leaving the plane after a premonition, so I got up, too. Uh no, he was just moving to another seat. On another flight I found comfort when the Jesuit student, who reminded me he was not a priest, was on my flight and seemed to be at ease. Better had he been a full-fledged priest, but I'll take what I can get.
At other times I've lit candles, chanted mantras, fingered the mala, and yes, even genuflected (much to my Catholic-raised husband's chagrin), because it can't hurt, right? Just like pressing that button every 108 minutes can't hurt. I mean, lack of sleep, paranoia, senseless fears...those are all better things than what could happen if you don't follow through! If you don't follow through you could burn...FOREVER!!! What's giving up a few minutes in this life to ensure, well, first to ensure more of this life, but also to ensure safety in the next life? Sign me up.
Here's the thing: if you didn't know about the button, didn't know about the praying and the fasting and the bowing to the east and what could happen if you didn't do those things, where would you be? What about those people who perform the rituals but still suffer...were they not performing them correctly or with as much oomph? Certainly performing the rituals does not insure we are safe from the boogie man, whatever that may be to you, because plane crashes do happen, with no survivors and the odds are that many people were praying.
Some people say they find peace in performing the rituals and I say there's nothing wrong with that, except when we attach so much to the performance that we stop using commonsense or when we look down upon others for not performing the rituals and miss the bigger picture - that they can still be really awesome human beings who've cracked the code and don't need the rituals. Some people have waited out the 108 minutes and found that life goes along about the same, that what makes sense is what is real.
So, what is up with these rituals? Do we perform the rituals because we really believe performing them gives us an in, or do we do it to give our lives purpose? I get the latter reason, but truth be told, I do it for the former reason. Yep, I would be pushing the button.