2 years ago: Learning to drive

March 15, 2011, on this blog: Learning to drive

[The rabbi] discussed how few events are more significant in the life of a 16- or 17-year-old than getting their driver’s license. It’s something that American teenagers long for, look forward to and worry about for years ahead of time. And it’s something that truly, significantly changes their lives ever after.

And yet it’s a milestone, a passage, that synagogues and churches have mostly ignored.

So his congregation set out to correct that, creating a ritual and a celebration to accompany and to sacralize the life-changing moment. When members of his congregation received their driver’s licenses, the whole congregation would mark that achievement with them. I forget all the details of the ritual and celebration he described. There was a prayer to bless the driver and the vehicle, after which the new driver drove a circle around the parking lot of the synagogue seven times around to the cheers of the congregation. And then, of course, there was food — if we eat together after weddings and funerals, then it makes sense to eat together here too.

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  • I suppose it’s been said over at the original post (which I’ll be reading shortly), but it strikes me as yet another way of dehumanizing the un-carred, ostracizing them/us from society. And hence, making sure we do our part to mess up the atmosphere. Thanks, but no thanks.

    P.S. Did Disqus just change dramatically, or does it just look different when it’s not showing any previous posts?

  • “[W]e need to help them think of things like driving as an expression or a part of that faith”?!? In an environmental context, even? Are you nuts?

  • Hexep

    I dunno. If we can sacralize birth – which is the most environmentally unsound of all activities – then we can sacralize driver’s licenses. I mean, you wouldn’t say that wedding ceremonies ostracize bachelorhood, or that funerals ostracize the living.

    And yes, Discus does look wildly different.

  • I felt a surge of embarrassment just reading that description of the ritual.

  • But everyone I know has been born (in some sense, at least; shut up over there, Macbeth). Not everyone gets a license or a car, so it’s still rather exclusionary.
    But, I guess that’s not the point you were addressing, so nevermind, but I still want to get that Scottish play quip in there. ;-)

  • Yeah, cursing now. I’ve tried exploring some of these threads and it’s IMPOSSIBLE to tell who’s replying to who anymore. The comments are threaded, but only one layer deep, so it looks like we all took turns replying to the same post. All the older discussions prior to the update are now so much gibberish.

    Damn it, Disqus.

  • Circling the synagogue seven times? That would seem to be a bad omen, but maybe only if the driver was also honking the horn.

  • hagsrus

    No way to sort by oldest comment?

  • Click on the little down arrow next to “Discussion” at the top, and you can choose to sort best, newest, or oldest comments at the top.

  • christopher_y

    That only sort by oldest comment within oldest thread thread. There’s no way to group all the comments that have been made since you last looked.

  • Janet

    While I hear that in other places, learning to drive isn’t a thing for a lot of people, that is not true where I live. I grew up in Southern California’s sprawling Los Angeles basin and the Inland Empire. Our public transportation system was gutted early on, and the cities and suburbs grew up instead around a complex freeway system of truly awesome scope. To be without a car in Los Angeles is to be crippled. The distances involved are just too vast for bicycles and buses Around here, only blind people, epileptics, and former D.U.I’s use public transport. As Cindy Lauper said: nobody walks in L.A.

    Ours is a car culture, where a vehicle is a part of one’s identity. Most cultures have rituals to acknowledge one’s coming of age. In primitive societies, it may have been a boy’s first hunting kill, or first counted coup. In ours, the critical rite of passage is that driver’s licence, because it releases you from your dependence on others. It is what separates the child from the adult. It carries adult responsibilities and consequences.

    I absolutely agree that the driver’s licence is an important rite of passage for the young adult. And as such, it should be celebrated and consecrated in a way that emphasizes its importance and implications. You are entering a fraternity of drivers, where rules and regulations exist for the safety and benefit of all. Just as with marriage, involving one’s community brings pressure to perform honorably and morally in the context of this new life stage.