The university I work for held their commencement ceremonies last week. I got to work during it, which wasn't too bad (I got to say congratulations to some of the students that I knew from working with them. And I get comp time).
Setting up for and working at the commencement got me to thinking--I could officially walk in next year's ceremony. Depending on the courses that are offered, I could finish up in the summer of 2008 and have my MA in English. A little frightening, no?
I'm looking forward to another ceremony, though. I'm intrigued by rituals and ceremonies in our society, especially the ones that still have the outward trappings though little of the meaning. Or ones where the old forms take on new meanings for the ritual's participants. Graduation is one of those things. Even if I did it just two years ago, I want to walk down and be hooded. I like the thought of being distinguished from undergrads. Most of all, it's sealing the completion of something in my life, a ritual ending and conclusion to one stage, and the beckoning of another.
Perhaps that is why we cling to certain, seemingly meaningless rituals in this postmodern era. We may have forgotten the history and deep meaning of old traditions, but they still bear significance and meaning for the participants, even if it is meaning they create for themselves. Earning a degree just wouldn't seem quite as powerful or important if it weren't accompanied by the ritual of wearing a gown and walking across a stage to receive a diploma. Some people say they don't care, but I most certainly do. And next May, I'll be walking proudly to the cheering of my family and friends, wearing a goofy hood down my back, and accepting my empty diploma holder so I can enact that ceremony once more.