By Elaine Voci, Ph.D. Certified Life-Cycle Celebrant
I am a writer and a Life-Cycle Celebrant. Recently I read a dedication page in a book for writers that named “Anne Frank and Nelson Mandela and those writers from all over the world who, in all times and places, have written to make things better” and I thought to myself, ‘that’s a good description of the common interest of many writers today in our fractured world.’ I believe that same ambition also helps to explain why many of us become celebrants – to make a difference, to make things better, and to support positive changes emerging in the world.
Here are some of the ways that writers and celebrants share roles and responsibilities as they strive to deliver on that ambition:
- A writer’s job is to tell stories that connect readers to all the other people on the earth, showing them as the complicated human beings they are with emotions, needs, hopes and aspirations. Writers engage in empathy training through their work – and empathy is a powerful emotion for changing the world. A celebrant’s job is to tell stories of specific people who are getting married, or being memorialized after death, or celebrating a milestone in life, for example, and they do it through ritual and ceremony, bringing people together in shared human experiences that engender empathy and compassion.
- Good writing facilitates and inspires openheartedness, illustrates certain truths, and encourages readers’ knowledge of the world, often empowering them to act for the common good. In a similar way, celebrants elevate human experiences to inspire gratitude for life, to give expression to love, and to satisfy the human need for meaningfulness and purpose.
- Effective writers allow readers to see the world from a new perspective; they do it by continually asking people “What is your experience?” and then listening, observing, and sharing with readers what they have learned through stories, ideas and actions. Celebrants use similar skills in order to understand their client’s values, goals, and stories which they then integrate into ceremonies, rites of passage and rituals that celebrate the milestones and acknowledge memorable life transitions. Clients often come to see their own lives in a new light.
- Writers are by definition people who care enough to try and share ideas with others that can create an environment in which people can be transformed; the goal is not to generate a certain kind of thinking, or feelings, but to foster greater self-awareness and personal growth. Celebrants are built the same way – they are wired to care about people, to honor each person’s process, and to help deepen self-understanding and growth through highly personalized ceremonies.
- Writers and celebrants are both “cultural change agents” who use words that can and do change the world for the better. The next time you go to a wedding or a funeral that is celebrant-led, or read a book that is written with passion and well-articulated ideas, you will have a direct experience of how deeply words can touch your heart, change your mind, inspire you to be your best self, and bring dignity and honor to the human life cycle.
Writer Barbara Kingsolver noted that “The difference between happy people and unhappy ones is that happy people have found a use for themselves, like a good tool.” Writers and celebrants are happy people with generous hearts and bold spirits because they tell stories that have the power to heal, to give people hope, to teach empathy and encourage positive interaction in our human community. We are weavers spinning a new kind of worldwide web, one book at a time, or one person at a time.
Interested in the Celebrant movement? Visit www.celebrantinstitute.org for even more Celebrant stories.