“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Harman on Rituals

Graham's recent very enjoyable post about the Indian wedding has some good thoughts about rituals. As a fairly regular participant in Tibetan Buddhist abhishekas, some of which take days and many of which take hours, I can attest to the much more open, Benjaminian "reception in a state of distraction" that happens in a huge one, as opposed to Protestant minimalist intensity.

I really like this effect actually. It implies less of a barrier between the spiritual world and the non-spiritual one.

My friend's west African wedding took three hours and involved lots of responsiveness from the congregation.

Long rituals allow for all kinds of boredom and multifaceted reactions to develop. Things are not so clean cut and stage managed. They can also really alter you--ever been to a day long or night long rave?

1 comment:

Joseph Charles said...

To offer my sense of agreement about the power of ritual, when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, I attended the installation of a bishop at a cathedral in Clearwater, Florida. I had been raised Roman Catholic, and educated in all Catholic schools, but this particular experience really affected me for some reason -- its duration and complexity one of them. Though you often hear of people being touched or changed by experiences outside their tradition, this was a case of finally experiencing something in my own tradition that I had never seen before or that never really communicated. It was really a strange turning point in my interest in my own religion, as it suddenly became both more attractive and more alien to me at once. Afterward, I felt as if something had been achieved that day, something real, but it was difficult to articulate. For years after that I tried to implicate myself in the ritual of the liturgy, being open for that same possibility of something happening, of becoming something more than I was through that ritual. In any case...you can never underestimate what kind of power and effect rituals (religious, secular, musical, etc) will have.