This show was a big bite to take, make and chew within one hour but ah well:
Technology and Ritual
Ritual needs sacrifice
Storytelling and Mythos
The story becomes alive in its telling
Our ancestors would struggle to see mythology as separate from ritual
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Ritual and Storytelling
When I sat down 35mins ago to make this show I was fully intending to talk about: Meditation Habits, Sacred Time and Sacred Space. But where I’ve ended up is: Ritual and Storytelling. I can already make out the sound of atheists and materialists cringing on the wind.
Whether you like it or not Witchcraft and Astrology are having their moments in the sun. And the least surprising thing about 2019 is Marianne Williamson running for president.
Until recently I’ve found is that any mention of ritual or sacred has been dismissed as culty or treated with suspicion. But I’ve noticed some quote unquote thought leaders saying things like ‘Technology-as-Ritual” recently. Valley bros trying to think piece up James Carey’s Ritual As Technology.
As we live through the collapse and are forced to confront the natural world. Subjects like The Sacred and Ritual will have to unpack in our culture in new ways in the next decade.
Quote unquote ‘Established religions’ don’t have a monopoly on Ritual. Nor do social scientists or anthropologists.
Ritual belongs to all of us. Both collectively and individually.
By now we all understand that technology neither works nor signifies the same in every place or culture. And If it does. It is often because the environment has been moulded to suit the technologies needs not the cultures. The reverse of Don Norman’s line in Living with Complexity. “We must design for the way people behave, not for how we would wish them to behave.”
Ritual and technology are both manifestations of local desires. They include complex ordering mechanisms. They both signify their beginning, verify and communicate their successful operation.
Ritual like technology is as integral to processes of knowing, doing and making. As it is to the production of symbolic meaning.
Unfortunately. It’s become very common for people use ‘rituals’ interchangeably with ‘routines’.
The entrepreneur dot com has “10 Bedtime Rituals That Help You Reflect, Relax, Sleep and Succeed”. Maybe this is something to do with spicing up copy up in the click bait age that causes this..
But there is an important difference between the two. One of them generates meaning, the other doesn’t.
Given that definition. I can hear you all shout “Then everything CAN be a ritual” and I would agree. But CAN is a word that’s doing a lot of the heavy lifting. One can imbue a routine with meaning and make it a ritual. Whether you SHOULD or not is an open question.
But rituals don’t just generate meaning. They also require one other element. Sacrifice.
As Will Newsome says:
All rituals have a sacrifice. The default one is time.Will Newsome
If you go back and look at the bedtime routines with the two tests of meaning and sacrifice. Most of them struggle to be minimum viable ritual.
Because what you find in ritual is an act of meaning that resonates with, and echoes out to the wider universe. That meaning can also flow both ways.
Reading aloud can be Ritual. Drama. Dance. As can a whole host of things.
An effective ritual creates a two way resonance between the audience and the performer. Black rod showing up in parliament the other week showed the aliveness of resonant ritual.
Like that meme, let’s take a screeching exit at the sign marked storytelling.
Starwars or the MCU is a quote and quote mythos. One that contains warmed over archetypes taken from children’s comics. Going to the cinema to watch a movie meets ritual criteria for many. It generates meaning in their lives AND is a sacrifice of time and money. People resonate with the characters that are being invoked during the movie. The characters however don’t resonate with them.
I’ve said before that deep engagement with mythos should give people agency within those realms. If someone else owns the stories then it’s not possible as the resonance is only one way.
There however other ‘story universes out there’ that are two way. The most OG of all is the night sky.
The Night Sky Is A Story Universe
The dance of the stars, constellations, planets and the moon is a vast cosmic soap opera that changes from day. When you pay attention, the sky is alive with meaning.
You don’t have to quote unquote even ‘believe’ in horoscopes to follow along. There is a whole cast of characters in the night sky that resonate with you personally, assigned in certain ways at the moment of your birth.
Over our heads is a cast of cosmic characters. Interacting dynamically. A story alive in the present moment that you can watch play out. You don’t need to go out and buy a T-shirt. But you already have a team so you might as well follow along.
And just as you can resonate with the characters in the sky, the positions of the characters resonate with you. You have agency in the cosmic story itself as you are part of that story in the witnessing. This is story as ritual. Alive in its telling. It has it sacrifice (being alive), meaning and resonance.
The reason the story in the stars as ritual is important. Is because our ancestors would struggle to define mythology as something separate from ritual. This is the toolkit that all our other narrative tools live inside.
If you managed to follow along, then we should demand a great deal more from the storytellers in our culture.
It is sacrifice, that generates the meaning, in the moment of the act. The act causes resonance.
The story becomes alive in its telling
The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in audio due to time constraints.