Our need for rituals, and one thing that really upsets it


Guess what that thing is?

Our need for rituals, and one thing that really upsets it /img/symbols.jpg

On this Christmas day I bring you all, from a Christian website, some food for thought. About something important, that is really for everybody.

From that post, about the relations between time, symbols, rituals and meaning, I have selected just a few quotes, to make a certain point myself. In doing so, I may have likely altered the original, intended meaning of some, or even all quotes, and if this is the case, I take full responsibility. You can check yourself by reading the fulll original, which I recommend doing anyway, whatever you think of this post of mine, or of religion and symbols in general. Enough introduction, here are the quotes.

From “All Ages Have Their Signature Afflictions”

There is a reduction of the human experience to empty frenetic activity by a socioeconomic regime centered on self-exploitation and the tautological notion of endless self-production.

It is not simply that everything becomes monetized under such a regime as we have seen dominate Western culture and globalism since the 1980s.

It is that human experience itself is degraded.

[In such a world] Ritual, of course, decays into routine. Death, shorn of significance and meaning, becomes just another data point added to an already endless accumulation.

Our need for rituals, and one thing that really upsets it /img/imagine-no-possessions-quotefancy.jpg

[People take vacations] not to relax or find excitement or see new places. To escape the death that exists in routine things. Even time away from work is itself an extension of work. Vacation is something which exists to make us more efficient.

Rituals are symbolic acts. They represent, and pass on, the values and orders on which a community is based. They bring forth a community without communication; today, however, communication without community prevails.

[That] definition, as clever as it is, almost seems to suggest that rituals are merely instrumental.

But “We can define rituals as symbolic techniques of making oneself at home in the world… They are to time what a home is to space: they render time habitable.”

Rituals are the process by which we fully inhabit time in the way that humans are meant to.

Do we experience time in clicks? In bandwidth? In quantifiable streams of data, raw and mindlessly accumulating?

“Today,” explains Han, “time lacks a solid structure. It is not a house but an erratic stream. It disintegrates into a mere sequence of point-like presences; it rushes off. There is nothing to provide time with any hold. Time that rushes off is not habitable.”

[Our current condition] siloes us into autonomous experiences, financializes communication, and urges us towards auto-exploitation.

To me, what that post is about is…

Eleven years ago, on this same website, I asked everybody to help me have sane, slow Christmas. That call was, so to speak, centered on the “material” level. Today, all I want to say is that:

  • those sentences above deeply resonate with me
  • I am sure that the same sentences have the same effect on millions of people who feel alienated today, and can help them to understand how they came to feel so
  • because we all need “rituals” of some sort

Please do note the quotes around “rituals”. It is “rituals” in the largest possible meaning of the word, that has nothing to do with religion.

My point, finally…

is that our current time makes it really hard to have to healthy, “shared rituals” (again, regardless of religion), and that those few sentences explain well how and why this is bad.

Above all, those sentences explain what is that we all lose… also thanks to, in a significant manner, what is a central theme of my work here: the wrong, wrong use of digital technology. Please think about this. Here you will find plenty of food for thought.

Image source: Myth, Symbol and Ritual. It seemed on topic.

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