Tara Isabella Burton, the author of “Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World,” calls it the bespoke-ification of religion, or the unbundling of rituals — a reference to how cable TV packages split apart after the advent of streaming services. In the unbundled world, people pick what they want from different faiths and incorporate it into their lives — a little Buddhism here, a little kabbalah there. It is consumer-driven religiosity.
“The idea is that what we want, what feels good to us, what we desire, that all of this is constitutive of who we are, rather than community,” Ms. Burton said. “We risk seeing spirituality as something we can consume, something for us, something for our brand.”
Deepening one’s Zoom practice
In a workday spent at home, standing in front of a computer while meetings come and go, projects are received and filed, there is no differentiation. Every activity is, physically, the same.
I’m hungry for ritual. Every day, I get dressed, put on shoes, make coffee, pour it in a mug and tell my two housemates that I’m heading to work and will see ’em later. Then I walk in a few circles and settle in at a desk in the corner of our living room, just a couple feet away. This is my deranged coronavirus commute and it’s how I help my bleary mind realize that the workday has begun.
If my boss said we would be instituting a one-minute group breathing exercise in the evenings to mark the closing of our laptops, or beginning each meeting by all smelling a clove together, would I like it? I would.
It’s easy to blur the line between routine and ritual. Which category is it, for example, to have a habit of taking a shower and staring at the ceiling for five minutes after accomplishing my day’s main task? Does the label matter, if the action feels essential?
To be technical, though, Kathleen McTigue, a Unitarian Universalist minister and a mentor to Mr. ter Kuile, offers a definition. She describes rituals as elevated routines, with set intention, attention and repetition.