We all deserve holidays, celebrations, and traditions. We all need to mark time. We all need community. We all need to bid hello and goodbye to our loved ones… All our best rituals are a kind of performance about what we need or want most.
Sasha Sagan is the daughter of renowned cosmologist Carl Sagan and writer Ann Druyan, which gave her a uniquely scientific upbringing. Her parents focused on teaching her the wonders of the universe and the powers of critical thinking and the scientific method. When she became a parent, Sagan and her partner had to decide what philosophies and beliefs they wanted to teach their own child, and the result of that decision is her book For Small Creatures Such As We.
Sasha Sagan is presenting a secular worldview, but is not hostile to religious perspectives. She expresses a warm curiosity and appreciation for the history of religious traditions around the world, and seeks to capture the spirit of religious rituals and festivals in her own life. Accordingly, she focuses each chapter on an aspect of life which has given rise to rituals in different religions: birth, coming-of-age, the changing of seasons, marriage, death, and more. She outlines how different traditions have celebrated these events, and offers meditations on their meaning alongside potential adaptations for secular or personal rituals. At its core, though, Sagan is urging us to really feel and celebrate the magic of being alive, however it works for us as individuals.
I enjoyed this book for the poetic descriptions of what living is, and I was moved by how honestly she talked about loving, losing, and grieving her father. I also thought she gave meaningful perspective on a lot of traditions and rituals that run through our lives. I came away feeling enlightened about the traditions that have shaped my life, and empowered to craft rituals that would add meaning to my own marking of time.
No matter your belief system, I think if you’re looking for a meditative read on how the sacred meets the everyday, there’s something in this book for you.