The Rhythm of Ritual…

Drawn across the plainland
To the place that is higher
Drawn into the circle
That dances round the fire
We spit into our hands
And breathe across the palms
Raising them up high
Held open to the sun

Self-conscious, uncertain
I’m showered with the dust
The spirit enters into me
And I submit to trust

——-The Rhythm of the Heat by Peter Gabriel.

Yesterday evening I rode many miles to be on sacred ground.  This place that I went to was special, was sacred, because I saw it as such.  Perhaps others also see it as sacred, but that is not all that important to me.  The importance of this place for me, as in almost all things in my life, came from my choice to see it as sacred.

Anyone can do this. Everyone does do this. It is only that some people don’t realize that they have this power and they abdicate the exercise of free will in such affairs. They let others take this from them.  They let others determine these elements of their stories.

This is my story though, and I’m happy to exercise my power here.

This story is about ritual.

By the end of yesterday, I had some things to process.. a number of things actually, for there were questions that I didn’t have answers to.. problems that I couldn’t see a solution to.  More importantly, these were internally-generated personal issues that I normally have a pretty good handle on.

To put it in a way that the few people who know me well would grok–I normally am an exceptionally grounded individual.  I act as a rock and a ground for most people I meet.

Yesterday, I had become ungrounded.

Thus, I had to adjust.

To make this adjustment, I knew I had to reconnect things and one of the most fundamental and primal ways for me to do this was to shift gears and move into the realm of the physical.

So I went on a bike ride. I rode to the most sacred–perhaps the only sacred place–that I’ve found in Madison.  I rode there in the rain and brought supplies with me.  At the time, I didn’t know that I was going to perform a ritual.. at least not consciously.  Or maybe, the ritual in my mind was just the act of riding–for I often used to do this as a teenager when I had a lot more issues to process.

However, I brought supplies with me out of some need and I went.

I went and visited Omnipotent… Omnipotent R. Brown, that is…

A few of my friends actually knew Ominipotent, although I never did, for he has been dead for many years.

I became acquainted with Omnipotent through chance.  Not so long ago, I lived on the Northside of Madison and our backyard opened up onto a small, but very old cemetery that is right next to Sanitarium Hill.  One day, while wandering, I came across the grave of Omnipotent R. Brown, and was immediately struck by the name.

This, in itself, might have made the ground sacred for me, but what really changed the situation was the fact that not more than 3 weeks after I made this discovery, I spent a day working with a woman at UW on a special project.  It was a printing production project for the College of Engineering and I got to work with a woman named Jean.  As we chatted and got to know each other, she asked me where I lived. As I told her and described it, she told me that she knew the cemetery well.  She told me that she had had a son who had mental problems and who had never been happy here. She said that he had committed suicide.

Although it pained her, she also believed that he was now happier than he had ever been while alive.

Her son’s name was Omnipotent R. Brown.

This connection, this kind of circumstance, is surely one of those coincidences that happen to everyone in there lives.  I do not see it as some part of a greater plan of fate or anything supernatural.  Rather, it is just one of the memories that I have that will be lost–like tears in the rain–when I die.  Everyone has these, I am not special in this.

Nevertheless, I like this fact. It was meaningful to me and thus I chose to make it special. It is what I consider sacred.

To return to the matter hand, I went to talk to Omnipotent.  To take the time, mainly for myself, to understand and adjust.

As I got to the cemetery, it was raining and nearing sunset.  I went to the top of the hill, where Omnipotent resided, and set my bike up against a tree.  I grabbed one of the two beers I had brought with me and went to pay my respects.  I cracked it open, and after taking a swig, I made an offering to Omnipotent of part of my draught.  This was the first offering.

I asked him, “What should I do? What should I do, Omnipotent?” And I kept repeating this.

Yes, I knew he wouldn’t answer me. Omnipotent is no more. This was just a place where part of the material that once was Omnipotent still existed.  But the questioning was for me.

But it got me nowhere. There were no answers to just asking the same question over and over again to a dead man.

So I decided to walk in a dead man’s home for a while. I decided to walk a mile in his abode.  I made a circuit around his grave (and a number of others) and I walked and I thought.

At first, these thoughts were mainly questions… what do I do? what should I do? what is wrong? .. and by around the third or fourth circuit I realized that this thinking was not going anywhere..

.. but I also realized that the conscious thought was the problem at this point.. that conscious thought was keeping me to focussed in close… like trying to use a microscope to appreciate a forest.

So I cleared my head.. or at least I tried.. I let it focus on nothing and just turned it over to my senses. I looked at the ground ahead of me. I felt the rain. I killed some of the blood-sucking flying demons that overrun Wisconsin all Summer when they landed on me.. (luckily, by moving, few did..), and I watched it get darker.

By around the 8th circuit, a question–the real question–appeared out of nowhere in my brain.. and the question was, What do you want?

And I knew the answer almost as immediately, I wanted peace.  And it was then also entirely clear what had created the dissension inside me, what had taken away my peace.

It was me.  I had done it. The unrest came from a belief colored by a sense of injustice… but this perception of injustice was entirely of my own making.. I had assigned it that meaning and I had to step back and evaluate that fact. Was that meaning fair? Was it just in itself?  Was it helping me?

No.  It wasn’t. It was not doing anything to me but create negativity and I had to change that fact.  I had the power to change that meaning.. and so I did.

These were the thoughts that occurred in my head during my ninth circuit of Omnipotent’s grave, and on the tenth, I offered him another bit of my draught (from the second bottle I had brought) in appreciation.

I continued walking however.. for my mile was not done and neither was my processing.. At the 13th circuit, I sealed my deal with Omnipotent with a third and final offering.  At the 14th circuit, I had achieved my mile and so I did one more for luck… and one more so that I could look out and see the lake as I passed by Omnipotent for the last time and said goodnight.

Then I rode home in the dark.

This was my ritual. It is like any other ritual in my mind–in that it is something created by humans and assigned meaning by them.

Oddly enough, this morning, I happened across the German word for “peace”–namely Friede–in my German Herkunftswoerterbuch and in German, peace derives from the word “free” and is closely tied to the word for “friend” and “friendship”… this makes a lot of sense to me… My peace was lost because  I was holding onto something in an unhealthy way.  To regain my peace, I needed to be free…

Obviously, some people may find it odd. They may find a cemetery at night to be a less than comfortable place. That’s fine. Rituals are creations and they only have the meaning that we assign to them.  They have no objective power–as anyone can see who looks at the rituals of others and thinks them strange–but only subjective.

But they can be useful. Last night’s ritual was useful for me and I’m grounded again… so I will move along now, internal world back in alignment and in rhythm..

The rhythm is around me
The rhythm has control
The rhythm is inside me
The rhythm has my soul


About Prof. Woland

I contain multitudes. Come meet us.
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