Modern society has become far from communal especially in America where the dream is to own one’s own piece of property separate from one’s neighbors and the rest of the community. This creates a kind of isolation between people, which takes away from our natural need to share our experiences and everyday lives with those around us as well as receive support from those people. Many problems in our society to do with youth culture such as the abuse of substances seem to me to be enhanced by the fact that we grow up lacking this kind of supportive community as well as the practice of traditions and ceremonies. In many tribal and indigenous communities it is customary to perform a coming-of-age ritual or a right-of –passage ritual. This kind of ceremony is important in the lives of adolescents in marking the onset of adulthood and the beginning of independence and maturity. The absence of this type of ritual in modern society disrupts the natural course of growth in a child’s life and puts them in an awkward limbo of being neither a child nor an adult and therefore unsure about how to act.
Coming-of-age ceremonies are just one example of rituals that are lacking in our society and therefore detrimental to the health of its people. We are also out of touch with the natural world and the cycles of the seasons as well as the agricultural calendar, which means even the source of our food is not in our knowledge. I feel that because of these cultural losses, we manifest our necessity for them through other cultural customs, which are often derived in youth culture and in deviance. At this particular concert in Denver I was taken by the repetitive rhythms of the instruments, the long sets that were played, the computerized visuals, and the unity of the crowd. All of these elements struck me as ceremonial and ritualistic. The musicians were the Shamans or the preachers and the audience became one entity moving together as a unified whole. The use of art and music in culture has always been tied to religious practices because of their ability to induce altered states of consciousness. It is true that when dancing at this particular concert I felt as though I was in a trance and the experience was meditative. I got lost in the visual projections as well. I see little difference between this experience and a religious ceremony, whether it is in a church or a teepee. The use of drugs at concerts is similar in many ways to the drug use in religious ceremonies. In Native culture many tribes use peyote to achieve connection with the spirit world and experience visions that will provide guidance in their lives. It is customary for Catholics to drink wine symbolizing the blood of Christ and for Hindis to use marijuana in worship of Shiva. Whether dancing at a concert or participating in a ceremony, the experience of an altered state often plays a large role, and it is through the music, art, and substances involved in these events that one is able to connect with the spiritual realm.
This is not to deduce the meaning behind religious ceremony down to the simplest of everyday activities, but it does seem to be important to point out the connection between culture and religion and realize that they can often be one and the same, serving the most fundamental human motivations. This class opened my eyes to just how broad spirituality is and how events as well as experiences can be spiritual even if they are not labeled as such under the construct of organized religion.