Ancient cultures have rituals based on myth to mark life's important changes from one season to another-from childhood to adulthood, from ordinary reality to spiritual awareness. The ceremony marks the change, and the ability, to evolve beyond self-interest to share the burden of the larger society. The transformation requires some acceptance and identification with something larger than yourself-the clan, the tribe, the community. Without such passages, there is no civilization.
We see the remnants of such rituals today in the ceremonies that occur when a lawyer becomes a judge, an immigrant becomes a citizen, or when a citizen puts on a uniform and becomes a soldier. Without the uniform and the ritual of commitment to the larger whole, a soldier is simply a murderer, or a vigilante in a private militia, an example that is all too real for us today.
Graduation retains some of the features of these more ancient rites: the gathering of elders (your families, the alumni) and priests (your teachers) to welcome you back from your books and experiences, and to celebrate the ceremonies and the feasts.
[Joseph] Campbell's seminal work "The Hero's Journey"...is one of the most compelling works in our culture, in movies, books, and religions. The story endures because it entertains and it inspires us. I think of it today as you begin your journey into the larger world. The hero usually emerges from humble beginnings, but is called to a path of trials and suffering. He survives a series of ordeals and returns to the community carrying a gift, a message from which everyone in the culture can learn. In fact, the hero's journey is like the journey of life itself. It's a mystery and a challenge, and in the process, you find something of value in the experience and about yourself....