We are not what we do, but what we do does in many ways stem from what we are.
Today, how many people have a grasp on music? Or art in general?
Not many unfortunately. It is definitely uncommon, but originally it was the glue of the community. What is the communal glue now?
Iphone? And the advertisements they plug us into. Even television serves to celebrate something we no longer have public sanction to act out. TV is our Saturnalia, a seriously bastardized version. How many calm programs are on TV these days?
Not many…only on public broadcasting.
Some areas here in the Maritimes have the tradition of kitchen parties where everyone would gather to sing and play music. Popular Maritime fiddlers and singing groups grew up with those parties.
So we are still engaged in processions. Recently, some even of our conscious volition like the walk outs at places like Walmart and McDonald’s. The funny thing, it’s the same sentiments that lead us to hold modern carols in contempt, to complain that the holidays are all commercialized and everything has lost its meaning. That same attitude is what keeps us plugged into this dance of the sugar plum fairies.
We do still have an intuition that could guide us out of this mess. No matter how base the symbols of our society are, they can still inspire wonder, and we need not just accept the prefab explanation of these wonders. We can decide as living compassionate communities what they mean.
What we need for Christmas, what everyone needs for Christmas, is wonder. Even to this day, you can see young children who stand in awe of Santa Claus. They’re rare, but they still exist, or you can listen to the fascination a child has regarding some toy. It’s not the toy that actually matters, it’s what they imagine the toy to be.
Christmas lights are great for bringing back wonder.
I like this new ‘Elf on the Shelf’ for bringing some wonder. Indeed. It is an excellent modern example of something that could be a wonder inducing tradition.
There was a practice among Native American shamans, those who came together in medicine lodges. They normally would cling to their medicine objects for dear life. It was the basis of their practice among their respective tribes, but from time to time they would hold a give-away among themselves, passing the object, be it a sacred rattle or drum or stone, and the story that went with it as well as sharing their ritual songs. They were sharing in their spiritual power in a way that would seem mysterious to their respective tribes. It was in service to the greater good. We do still have totems today, many of them are electronic. We can bring more awareness to those things we value and why. Start carols in internet culture.
I think photographs are totems. They are, yes.
I feel more of the sense of Christmas in the World of Warcraft community than I do in real life. Something about the digital/symbolic nature of the exchange seems to natural encourage awareness of sentiment.
MMOs tend to have neat holiday events. It’s the same in Anarchy Online and Guild Wars 2.
Some small social groups become something like tribes, more family like than perhaps there individual families are.
I’m starting to remember the world outside of computers. I forget that I can walk to the park and go out for coffee and it’s awesome when I remember I can do those things. Well, carols can remind us of old traditions, and that’s a good start, but what we need is an awareness not of the world as it seems, but the world within the world. The world as it means to us instead of just how it seems to us. The crass Batman jingle evokes a strange sense of communal spirit in me, what about you?
I’ve had ‘God rest ye merry gentleman’ in my head all day in 4 part harmony. I have some variant carols in my head, and honestly I like them.
I see the tendency to sentimentalize old traditions as a good thing, but not entirely necessary. It’s the spirit of tradition and community that matters, and new traditions are as valid as old. Traditions are just ancient memetic engineering. We do not need corporations to do that for us, and we can do it despite their intended meaning for their own contributions.
Anyone heard of techno-shamanism? It’s not a widely embraced or respected school of thought. It embraces the spirit behind traditional shamanism, and goes further to embrace scientific and technological methods, things like hemi-sych audios, or lucid dream inducing sleep masks, even seeking visions in cyberspace, vision questing the internet. As much as the commercial sector would like to write their own ticket, just make up anything and get us to buy it, they actually can’t. There are even some radical thinkers that use shaman like principles to put them in touch with where the “spirit” of the community is going.
Your thoughts are welcome. Be well friends.