Take Comfort in Rituals

I love Starbucks. Unabashedly. Starbucks is like Coldplay or The Shawshank Redemption: wonderful things that are widely beloved and thus not "cool" to like... but wonderful nonetheless.

I also love Starbucks' new advertising slogan—Take Comfort in Rituals—for a number of reasons. I love it because it's just so right for Starbucks' brand. As someone who works in marketing/advertising for a living, I have huge respect for brands that get their messaging so right. But I also love it because, for me, it captures precisely why Starbucks is so appealing.

Every Sunday morning, before church, I go to my local Starbucks to read for a few hours, have a tall dark roast drip coffee, and eat a breakfast sandwich. It's the one time of the crazy week that I set aside—no matter how busy I am—to stop what I'm doing and relax with coffee and a good book, preferably something I'm not required to read. Starbucks has comfy chairs, reliably good coffee, and I always know that wherever I am in the world, Starbucks will be also (confession: I went to at least 3 Starbucks in Shanghai a few weeks ago). I look forward to my weekly ritual at Starbucks; I take comfort in it.

Why are rituals such a blessing? Why are they so comforting? Why—after spending 10 days seeing amazing things on another continent—was I so excited to return to the routine rhythms and rituals of my "normal" life back home? Why am I confident that some day, I will go to bed at the same time every night, have the same breakfast cereal every day while watching the same morning show, and love every minute of it?

Perhaps one reason is because rituals make the chaos of life just a bit more manageable. And the older we get, I think the more we can appreciate anything that will help decrease the chaos.

Perhaps it's also because there's something transcendent about repetition, about the mundane and predictable patterns of life. The seasons, for example. They happen every year, like clockwork... and there's something gloriously moving about that.

Paradoxically, it seems that things like repetition, ritual, and regularity actually make our battle against time easier. The tyranny of time—which is that it constantly reminds us of impermanence, deterioration, and mortality—is somehow diminished in rituals, which help bring a semblance of continuity and constancy to an otherwise constantly changing existence.

Or maybe rituals are appealing because when we find something that works for us, or gives us joy, we often go back to to it time and time again. Things like sitting in a coffeeshop with a good book, or being with family on Christmas, or listening to Parachutes on a melancholy evening. Things that give us a reprieve from surprises and spontaneity (which can also be good!), and connect us with former but familiar versions of our self.

The process of it all is a gift. And I certainly take comfort in it.