In college I worked weekends at Kinko’s helping folks make copies. Being in the heart of the city’s university area we got a veritable crowd of customers: New York designer pomps, humble tenured professors, self-loathing graduate understudies, shrew-handed panhandlers and so on.
My favorite was older folks; Kind, patient and with a penchant for speaking their mind to offer real advice. The kind of advice you don’t ask for but is dead-on. And it was sly. The casual nature that those with a little wisdom have in imbuing that on the world around them is a graceful thing to witness.
As an angsty 19-year-old I imagine I probably wore my problems on my sleeve. I had been having a rough day when I was asked to make a few prints for an older fellow. Waiting for the job to finish up he just straight-up said, “I shave every single day.”
“ I’ve done it most of my life. I was in my twenties when I started. My life didn’t feel in order so I picked up my razor. I made a practice of it and I’ve shaved every day since. It’s always something I can do at the start of my day.”
With the printer humming in the background I was thinking “cool, that’s great old dude,” and not much more. At the time I was totally unaware of the fact this stranger was reading me and my need to practice a ritual.
See, a ritual is like a habit but holds a greater spiritual importance. Like a habit, it’s done with consistency but also with the faith that it may prove to be a singular constant in your life. It’s an act that’s built upon the simpler elements of the action; Their order, familiarity, and touch.
The making of a ritual is uninspired but for the instinctual need to exert some degree of control, of preparation and planning. The correlative emotion for habits, both good and bad is guilt. For ritual it’s loss: To be at loss for lack of a ritual or to feel at loss for corrupting a beloved ritual.
Ritual isn’t guided by the strictures of time or place. They’re fun in that way. They’re more of an internal reminder that there’s something you practice that appeases your sense of need to “do”. It builds a necessity out of a desire without debasing the desire.
Riding a bike is a form of ritual. The planning, preparation and discipline of saddling up all collectively build to that one moment when you’re cruising along. It’s that floaty feeling you get when you forget everything’s working in order and you forget what you have to do that day or feel you should be doing otherwise.
Riding is a ritual reminder: Sometimes effort can’t be measured with what you’ve completed or achieved, but rather stand testament to fact that you already have everything you need.