Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Ritual as the habitual

To follow up my last post, I opened up over breakfast the NYT "T" Sunday supplement. Glossy testament to consumer lure, this pulp alternates homage to jewel-bedecked or heel-fitted beauties with a few articles, mostly about designers and the fourth homes they inhabit in venerable or exotic locations. Still, sometimes in rapidly skimming the pages, I find a bit of  lit-crit or cultural comment.

Emily Witt contributes a "Sign of the Times" column, "The Year of Magical Thinking." You can figure how many ads this has in that my print copy has this at page 63 as the first "journalism" inside. She begins by noting the palo santo fragrance wafting all over the Brooklyn bars and gallery openings. She credits its "sudden popularity" to a "yearning for ritual and ceremony in everyday life."

While my workplace lacks rose quartz crystals in any colleague's cubicle that Witt offers as examples of "believing in magic," I have for a few years now pinned up on one wall a few Tibetan prayer flags to brighten my grey space. They lack any wind to carry their petitions skyward, unless I turn on my little fan in the summer when the a/c fails. I have no idea how many whom I know have an I Ching app on an iPhone, but I know of a few cyber-friends who trust their star signs and trust in charts.

Witt claims: "It is no longer taboo to toss aside skepticism and trust the unverifiable." Perhaps in NYC, but certainly my Catholic friends and family never stopped this, at least on the surface and for many, within their souls. But as Witt explains, the "lack of religious faith so prevalent in our age is an anomaly in history." She continues: "Magic, which usually does not demand faith in a particular deity, or the sometimes exclusionary imperatives of organized religion, allows people to access a sense of the miraculous on the level of the quotidian. The desire to submit to the cosmos, to believe in phenomenal occurrences and to blame a late subway on the trajectories of stars across the firmament comes from a deep-rooted, perhaps inherent human interest in surrendering to destiny." Well-stated.

About "appeals to reason," Witt rationalizes that the holidays can put this perpetual debate in perspective. Without "losing common sense," we indulge in the hanging of mistletoe, the wrapping of gifts, the tree of green cut or the hanukkiah of wicks lit, the wreath of Advent and the solstice candle. Even more party-going signals our draw towards celebration in dark nights. "All the better to partake in these rituals informed by a deep faith in the existence of miracles." And for those of us within which we witness this battle between brain and spirit, soul and mind, we too capitulate to tradition.

P.S. An image search for "ritual" emanates into, first, lots of shadowy pentacles, circles, and candles. Not a big fan of this band, but I figured this connected with the roots around me, born in East L.A.

No comments: