RITUALS

The coffee does have to taste good, but even so, that's really not the point.

The coffee does have to taste good, but even so, that's really not the point.

RITUALS

Like everyone I know, there's never enough time. We're all looking for ways to optimize, to do something while doing something else, eliminate tasks, get stuff done. But there are some things about which I will not negotiate. How I make coffee at home is one of them.

I'm not a coffee snob; my process is not particularly interesting. But when I make coffee, I like to grind fresh beans. I like counting out scoops with my black plastic measuring spoon. I like the sound they make as they fall into the grinder. I don't particularly like the sound of the grinder itself, but there's something bracingly solid about that awful whir as the metal blades turn beans into grounds. I like the sudden drop in sonic pressure when the grinder stops, and I take some strange delight in the swift movement I've managed to perfect to get all the grinds from the grinder into the paper cone of my coffee maker.

The coffeemaker itself is nothing special – – an ancient wedding present from 1995 that still manages to do the job. The warming plate is not particularly hot, and I sometimes have to goose the temperature of the resulting coffee before pouring it into my travel mug if I'm about to get in the car. But the machine is reliable and the coffee tastes pretty good. A splash of milk finishes it off for me; I'm not generally a sugar-in-coffee kinda guy. Then it's done. The whole process takes me five or six minutes, but I don't do it entirely for a cuppa Joe.

When I make coffee at home, I can count on one thing in my day.

Often on my weekend, when time allows, I like to follow a slightly different protocol. I like to prepare coffee with my French press. This was a present given to me only a few years ago, a low volume, upscale device that makes only two and a half cups of coffee at once. The process takes a little more care, and therefore takes a little more attention and time. With the right beans and the right grind the resulting black gold is spectacular. It's a manual process, a bespoke cup of coffee, and it makes me smile. I especially like it when I can prepare a cup for someone else.

We all have rituals. Baseball players are notorious for them, but ordinary everyday people count on rituals to stay in balance. No doubt there are endless potential musings on the subject, books and movies and philosophical considerations to ponder. But most vitally, there's this: do not take your rituals for granted. In the appropriate context, they don't have to make sense to anybody else. Explanations of how and why they function in your life are already suspiciously misleading. It's as if the very process of explaining your rituals decreases their potency.

Don't worry: you're not crazy. So long as rituals don't become obsessive, they can free you from certain consumptions of energy that you otherwise don't need to spend. They can instill confidence just as they can remind you of people or circumstances or even deeply held beliefs that ground you to profound (or not so profound!) meaning.

Being creative means to approach the day with a willingness to make something that didn't exist before. Being creative means to invent new ways of being, of thinking, of doing. Perhaps that's the great value of having a few rituals in your life, so long as they're authentic, not bolted on to put on airs. Authentic rituals provide a solid place from which to push off. After than, anything is possible.

--MS

@michaelstarobin facebook.com/1auglobalmedia facebook.com/michaelstarobin

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