I wouldn’t consider myself a very spiritual person. Yet, living in a place where 99.9% of the people are of one single religion, one can’t help but be moved by the dedication and belief behind any organized religion.
Five times a day I am reminded of these things and more as Adhana sounds, a (more than) gentle reminder to my neighbors of their religious duties. I don’t know if anyone has counted, or even could count, the number of mosques throughout Stone Town, let alone the entire island, but let me demonstrate. Everyday I leave my house and walk towards the SUZA-Vuga campus, which is less than 7 minutes in whole. I walk thirty seconds to the main road of Kisiwandui, turn left, and walk straight and (I’m not exaggerating) before maybe one minute has passed I’ve already crossed two large mosques.
As I walked home from the market today, I passed the two mosques, realizing they were indeed two mosques, not one as the map in my mind had me believin’. I’ve watched men walk in and out of mosques all day long. Some, just finishing their prayers and heading elsewhere, others standing in peculiarly straight lines praying, and even others entering to wash their arms, legs, and heads, in order to prepare themselves for prayer. For some reason, the sequence, the orchestration, and beauty behind it all really struck me. It forced me to realize that humans are ritualistic. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a grand epiphany to you, but think about it. There’s a weird association attached to the word ritual, at least for me. I’m not sure why or how it became. (Isn’t there another way I could have been taught about the Mayans so that the only thing I remember isn’t about human sacrifice?) However, I’m not really thinking religiously here. Every single day you’ve ritualized something. I bet you wake up, eat, shower, brush your teeth, and change your clothes. You like your coffee a certain way, you might even go as far as I do, eating the same thing every single day. Two eggs over easy with two slices of toast. What is it about these rituals that comfort us? Why does a disruption in these rituals, ehem, such as moving 8,000 miles around the world, affect us the way it does? And after such disruption, why is easy or hard to acclimate ourselves to new rituals?