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For Small Creatures Such as We

Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World

By Sasha Sagan
15-minute read
Audio available
For Small Creatures Such as We by Sasha Sagan

For Small Creatures Such as We (2019) is a guidebook for those seeking to celebrate the milestones of life – both joyful and painful – in a nonreligious context. By exploring traditional ceremonies through a scientific lens, author Sasha Sagan invites secular individuals to develop their own meaningful rituals that create wonder and provide comfort.

  • Secular people wishing to participate in meaningful but nonreligious rituals
  • Families looking for new ways to celebrate milestones
  • Seekers of wonder wanting to connect more deeply with the natural world

Sasha Sagan is a writer, editor, filmmaker, and television producer who has worked in New York, Boston, and London. Known for examining cultural ritual through science, her essays have appeared in publications including New York Magazine and O, The Oprah Magazine.

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For Small Creatures Such as We

Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World

By Sasha Sagan
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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For Small Creatures Such as We by Sasha Sagan
Synopsis

For Small Creatures Such as We (2019) is a guidebook for those seeking to celebrate the milestones of life – both joyful and painful – in a nonreligious context. By exploring traditional ceremonies through a scientific lens, author Sasha Sagan invites secular individuals to develop their own meaningful rituals that create wonder and provide comfort.

Key idea 1 of 9

Celebrating birth is a way to acknowledge the remote odds that we exist at all.

Most of us have had the experience of marveling at a newborn baby. It’s extraordinary to think that every single person who’s ever lived starts life as a tiny bundle. If we’re lucky, we get to keep that life for around 80 to 100 years, but compared to the lifespan of our universe – currently believed to be 13.8 billion years – our lives are barely a blink in time. Knowing this makes them even more precious.

If we consider the events that led to our existence, each human’s presence on Earth is seemingly miraculous. Scientists estimate that so far, there have been around 7,500 generations of Homo sapiens. This means that for you to exist with your unique blend of genes, thousands of specific sexual encounters between your ancestors had to take place. When we factor in mortality, natural disasters, and historical events like war, the odds of you being you are extremely remote. 

Happenstance also plays a role in our appearance on this tiny green planet. Author Sasha Sagan’s grandparents met in 1938 on the E train in New York City. Sagan’s grandfather Harry was reading Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! As he turned the page of his book, the woman sitting beside him placed her hand on his arm. She hadn’t finished reading the page. 

That woman became Sagan’s grandmother. If she’d sat in a different carriage or taken a different train line, Sagan’s grandparents might never have met, and Sagan would never have come into being two generations later.

It’s no wonder then that, as a species, we have countless rituals to welcome babies to Earth. Baptisms and naming days are popular in the Western world. Chinese families host a feast when a baby is 100 days old, celebrating that the child has defied early death. Many cultures – from the Balkans to Jamaica – plant seeds or trees.

Though traditions vary, they commonly center around a hopeful wish for the unique person that has entered the world. You can create your own meaningful ritual to provide this for your newest family member. Your ritual might be as simple and intimate as reading a special poem to your baby or it might be something more elaborate, like throwing a party to introduce them to the people who’ll be part of their lives.

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