The Match Ceremony Shines a Light

Bill Oakes
MDI Contributor

A few years ago, I visited the art museum in Boston [Museum of Fine Arts Boston]. One exhibit was a carving of a duck, not a particularly striking rendition, but what I noticed was that the carving was about 9,000 years old, from somewhere in the Middle East.  I’m guessing that 9,000 years ago was about the beginning of civilization, when people could spend time carving rather than just surviving.

Assuming that a man carved that duck, he created a legacy that lasted 9,000 years and showed up in Boston. 

How many generations of descendants did that man have? Well, 9,000 divided by 25 years is 360 generations. And, if a normal life was 60 years over that time, it’s 150 lifetimes since that duck was carved. 

A lot of people have lived and died during that 9,000 years and 150 lifetimes. Everyone reading this will die at some point. In the expanse of history, we are not alive very long at all. We pass through this world for a fleeting moment. Others will be here, then others after that, each spending their fleeting moment.

So, what will you do in your fleeting moment? What will your legacy be? Are you working on that? Are you making the world better? Are you proud and happy with what you will leave behind? Nothing is certain beyond this life, so we can assume that this is our one shot, our only opportunity.

In MDI’s foundational training, The Legacy Discovery, we conduct what is called “The Match Ceremony” to symbolize our brief life and help men understand the legacy they now have. It opens the door to help them decide if they want to change that.

The Match Ceremony is really easy to do, and can be very impactful in a short time. I have seen the Match Ceremony done at team meetings; in fact my team did a Match Ceremony once with a man who had terminal cancer. Very moving. It can be done at any gathering of men.

The Match Ceremony

Form the men into a circle – we’re good at that, right? Give each man a wooden match. Instruct the men that when his match is burning, he is to tell the other men what his legacy would be if he were to die today. Each man needs to light the match of the next man before his match goes out. If a match goes out on its own, the man must stop talking; some lives end before we expect. At this point, the man is to light the next man’s match and continue the ceremony. When everyone has spoken, we open up the circle and ask men to say anything they need to.

The lit match, of course, represents the flame of life that burns brightly and then goes out.

Lighting the next match symbolizes passing a legacy along to those who follow. 

I can see doing it on Zoom, but each man would need to light his own match. 

In either case, the Match Ceremony is a great ritual that can give men a sudden motivation to make changes in their lives.

And – who knows – just maybe one of us will create something that lasts as long as a 9,000 years.

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