Ritual is by nature incomprehensible to outsiders yet deeply meaningful to the insiders; it serves to express the group spiritually, morally or socially. It is a demonstration of belonging "of respect or submission ... affiliation ... social acceptance or approval for some event." At the height of its potency national symbols do not have to be explained. Everybody gets it. But in dying civilizations ceremony finally becomes an quaint entertainment whose origins nobody can quite place. Even after a nation has died its ceremonies may still be re-enacted to satisfy the curiosity of its successors. But while a country still lives in spirit, ceremonies are a kind of inside baseball, a running commentary that everybody who should understand gets right off the bat.
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URL to article: http://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/2011/6/24/pageantry