in: Advice, Character, Sunday Firesides

Sunday Firesides: You Should Join a Cult

Caption: "Several lit oil lamps on a surface with the bold statement 'You Should Join a Cult' overlaid, accompanied by 'Sunday Firesides' logo.

In the present age, the word “cult” is used in a pejorative sense.

But it didn’t always carry this negative baggage. 

Cult derives from the Latin cultus, which was originally an agri-cult-ural term referring to the cultivation of the land. The Romans, who participated in both state and private cults, used the word to describe the committed cultivation of the rites, habits, and sacrifices attendant to showing religious reverence.

In subsequent centuries, cult retained this religious connotation but was also used more generally to mean “devoted attention to a particular person or thing.” People spoke of those who belonged to “the cult of the soul,” “the cult of honesty,” “the cult of creativity,” “the cult of strenuosity.”

Today, we could all benefit from joining a cult in this older sense of simply being unwaveringly, even “excessively,” dedicated to a set of beliefs and practices. In a world in which healthy, virtuous ways of life are uncommon and unconventional, maintaining one’s ideals requires a single-minded, almost religious devotion. 

It takes fanatical commitment to make exercise a daily non-negotiable when life rarely necessitates getting out of your chair. 

It takes fervent dedication not to overeat when food is available at every time and in every place.

It takes zealous conviction to stay in a marriage when everyone around you seems to be throwing in the towel. 

It takes unrelenting vigilance to think for yourself when the landscape is full of regurgitated, algorithmically-driven chatter. 

In a world where standard norms tend towards deterioration and decay, you cannot hope to swim upstream with a middling, milquetoast allegiance to healthy habits and higher principles. Staying sane requires going at things a little crazy; adopting stand-apart beliefs, bright-line rules, and sacrosanct rituals; embracing the cult of fidelity, reviving the cult of strenuosity, and joining the cult of life.

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