Social Sciences

The Necessity and Tyranny of Ritual

Author: Tater Gumfries

Tater likes to have a newspaper to read when he eats his breakfast. Well, sir, the other day the newspaper didn't come and Tater got all shook up. Caused him to do some thinkin. And it turns out things ain't as simple as they seem.

Every day Tater wakes up, goes out and gets the paper, eats breakfast while reading, then makes the coffee. Every gul durned day. Except today the paper didn't come. What the hell's Tater supposed to do without no newspaper to distract him from his food?

Tater suspects they's a lot of folks don't read during breakfast. Some can't read, some don't want to, and all of them don't need to, but then there's the ones of us who got to read.

So he grabs a catalog offa the barrel and sets reading that while eatin dry cereal outa the box. Weren't no fun catalog like cigars or the John Deere or Craftsman -- it was a girlie catalog, and not the fun kind. It's just regular gals clothes, no bras or panties, but long Winter stuff. And Tater didn't read it at all. He just looked at them pictures.

What the hell??? Is Tater so desperate to read something he gonna read *anything*??

Nope. Tater got a ritual on his back, and it won't let him be. He so used to havin a stack of paper on the left and his bowl on the right that he got to have it, even if it ain't no paper, and he ain't readin it. He digs in that spoon with the right hand while lookin at that paper and the spoon finds its way to his mouth. Tater suspects if he was to put the bowl right in front of him and look at it, he'd miss the mouth entire.

Funny part is, Tater didn't have no milk, and that didn't upset him as much as there weren't no paper. Hell, if they wasn't no cereal or toast Tater would eat a burrito or a slice of cold pie or pizza. Guess it ain't the breakfast with a news paper as much as it is some paper on the left, some food on the right.

That's the thing about rituals. Folks will tolerate a lot of deviation as long as the basic core chore gets did. Folks go to church on Sunday. They's a Baptist church and a Pentecostal in the holler, and a Methodist up in Lumley (ain't even gonna talk about the Catholics up in Humbert). We go to the Pentecostal and the Hooters go to the Baptist, and it don't make none of us no nevermind. We all went to church. Don't matter that the  Baptists got the doctrine wrong and gonna spend a couple weeks in Limbo before they get judged, and the Methodists ... psssht! What matters is we went to church.

So when little Jake  comes down to the holler to see his grampy, Tater gonna teach him the basics. Paper on the left, food on the right. PAPER ON THE LEFT, FOOD ON THE RIGHT!

That's all he need for now. The finer points will come later.