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While walking on the street and trying to grapple with the reality of somehow nearing middle age without even realizing what happened, a sudden realization came to me. In today’s world, we’ve given up the strict norms and societal rules of yesteryear (and good riddance) but we’ve never put anything in their place. We don’t need to do anything by any specific age or stage in life, we can choose whether we want to be independent (if we are blessed – or cursed – with indulgent parents), whether we want to have a partner (and of what gender denomination we are and want said partner to be), whether we want to have children and so many other once unthinkable choices.

This is a good thing!

But what happens is that when everyone just floats about, some don’t find their way in life. They lack guidance and direction and in all their apparent simplicity, Rites of Passage.

So what can we do to create valid modern rites of passage? Do we create our own as individuals? Would they work equally well as something you could celebrate as a community? Maybe rites need to make you feel part of something bigger than yourself and this is something that is hard to find in an extremely individualized society. On a side note, this is probably also the reason so many feel attracted to extremism and radical opinions. In the end, humans are social animals (or so they keep telling us) and we need the flock’s approval, whoever the flock may be. Personally, having left my country of origin at a young age and subsequently having lost almost my entire family (and certainly the most important person in it, my mother), I feel left out of everything, like I’m my own planet and my son is my satellite. The pandemic and my desire to not put my family at unnecessary risk, has only exacerbated this feeling. So do we search for a community? Considering how many people are identifying more and more with extreme beliefs on each and every side of the spectrum, I would be wary to just advise people to “find their own people/soul family”. I would rather advocate compromises and to try to understand other people’s viewpoints. This means accepting others which is something humans have difficulty with at best but it might just be worth it. If nothing else, it’ll teach us (and our children) tolerance and understanding.

Examples of rites of passage throughout life:

  1. A New Life celebration where the beginning of life is celebrated.
  2. A Coming of Age celebration around the time a child turns adolescent.
  3. A Becoming a Young Adult celebration around the age of independence (legally).
  4. A Becoming an Adult (for real) celebration around the age of 30.
  5. A Love celebration for those who choose a partner (maybe the others could have a parallel celebration of choosing to be single).
  6. A Divorce celebration for those who choose a different path in the middle of life.
  7. A Becoming a Parent celebration (coincides with no. 1).
  8. A Middle Age celebration.
  9. A Retirement celebration.
  10. A Death celebration to celebrate a life lived and to prepare for letting go of life.


I don’t have the answers, nor do I pretend to know the exact questions, but I feel that we all have to ask ourselves if we’re living life to the fullest – whatever that means at any given time – or whether we’re trudging on without even realizing that we’re getting older. Feel free to leave a comment about what you think about any of these rites or even whether you think they’re needed and why/why not. I leave you with a short verse from the Ecclesiastes (3, 1-8) which I’ve always found adequate for any moment in life and so beautifully simple.

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
      a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
      a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
      a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
      a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
      a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
      a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
      a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.


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