Wednesday, January 23, 2008

First Things' On the Square Pallbears

First Things today features a very insightful article in its On the Square section on Pallbears by Rev Paul Gregory Alms, a North Carolina Lutheran pastor. Rev Alms succintly reflects on pallbearing as indicative of the many communal customs and traditions that give meaning and continuity to human life. The piece is called, fittingly, On Being a Pallbearer. Below is an excerpt.

Many customs and traditions in many areas of life are disappearing from among us. Liturgy in the church, national “rites” such as the Pledge of Allegiance or taking off one’s hat at the National Anthem, and countless other shared activities are being lost. There is some advantage to the rejection of a “we’ve always done it that way” mentality. But there is also a danger. More is lost than simple habits. We become more and more isolated, more alone when we mark times and feelings such as birth and marriage and war and patriotism and death in idiosyncratic ways. It becomes “just us” and our decision. Any other greater meaning is gone. When we do things that have always been done, even when it seems antiquated or strange (such as pall bearing), we are affirming that we are not free agents who have landed on the planet in the last twenty years. We have fathers and mothers, grandfathers, great grandmothers, ancestors, who worked and gave birth and believed and raised children, and we are the beneficiaries of that struggle. We have a past to which we are connected through ritual and the shared experience those rituals bring.

Read the whole article here.

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