Do you know where your towel is?

Last post I touched on the importance of ritual and celebration, human beings being a species who gain life meaning from giving meaning to time.

From the resurrection of an old Mothering Sunday custom, I’m going to come right forward to something very modern. Today is the 14th annual International Towel Day. Instituted in 2001, fans of the late author Douglas Adams carry a towel (or at least post a towel on their social media status) on the 25th of May in honour of his wisdom and legacy.

How does this tie in with celebrancy? Some of the most important work we do as celebrants is helping people to mark the lives of those who have passed, in a way that honours them as they lived. For fans of a public figure, this may seem to be mourning on a much larger scale, but that does not mean it isn’t personal. Those who create art, or who speak in terms of ideal, or who live and contribute in a way that inspires people, have the power to change minds and lives.

Think for a moment of the writers who you absorbed growing up – how did their thoughts on paper influence yours? What did they inspire you to do? A handful of people decided to mark Douglas Adams’ passing by something as simple as carrying a towel, and 14 years later it is still a “thing” – a small celebration which helps to keep alive the memory of someone who has passed for a group of those on whom his life had an impact.

Many people, my husband included, consider the carrying of a towel every day (at least in the car) as having always been an essentially practical act. Douglas Adams, writing in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in 1978, made the carrying of a towel (originally a tip he picked up from reading travel guides himself) something more – a pop culture reference which influenced a generation. Either the extract in the video below (read by Douglas himself) is a cute little wordplay on a seemingly innocuous object, or a much deeper ideology on the essence of a human need to be prepared. It could be both.

The fact remains that if you tell someone of a certain age and background that they really know where their towel is, you’re paying them a compliment.

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