In Icelandic you have to conjugate the nouns, too

The title’s rather irrelevant. aaaanyways,

In Mircea Eliade’s work on religion, he discusses the sacred primordial myths that pervade our species’ religious endeavors. The sacred point, the Center where everything is consecrated and rendered sacred, is the point at which man has seen or performed a great act, a primordial act that has meaning-giving status. The world begins at that act, the act of Creation; from this point, time begins and ends. Eliade was a remarkable thinker, but his ideas are extremely abstracted from the religions he studied. Suffice to say, this act of Creation establishes a transcendent point between “profane” and “sacred” reality. The profane, meaningless world is transitional, the sacred world is eternal and the home of meaning.

As an explanation of religious phenomena, Eliade’s work explains this worldview as the basis for the religious man’s actions. You see, as man lives he must validate the meaning of the sacred world to him; but there is only one way to re-consecrate the sacred, and that is by repeating the initial Creation act. But this repetition of the act is not merely a meaningless performance, because each repetition of the act of Creation is synchronized with the original act in the eternal, timeless sacred space. It’s weird, I know, but it’s also fairly easy to understand in some sense: we act to have meaning, and the religious world has an established ritual for re-certifying the meaning of reality. But Eliade goes farther than this to say that this ritual act, this act of Creation, is not the only ritual act man performs; in fact, any act that has a definite purpose, reading, sewing, building, etc., is a ritual act of re-Creation. Man is constantly in the act of providing meaning to his world by repeating the ritual of Creation.

I think that shit’s pretty cool. But what does it have to do with new media?

Well, at the end of “The Medium is the Message”, McLuhan refers to Arnold Toynbee’s inability to understand “Blake’s awareness or that of the Psalmist, that we become what we behold” (208). Of course this is McLuhan’s whole point, isn’t it? We cannot see that we are influenced by our mediums of exchange and discourse; we cannot see how these things eventually restructure our daily lives and activities, to the point that an individual man loses uniqueness, “the purely personal in experience”, as McLuhan quotes G. H. Bantock.

However, I think the whole ritual thing plays a big part in this influence by a medium. See, I think that Eliade’s point about re-Creation and reasserting meaning into the world applies generally to everyone. We all look for meaning, and find ourselves always in an action that constitutes a meaning for us; we all participate in social and secular rituals that re-meaning-ify the world. As technologies emerge, we must find a way to incorporate these new objects into our eternal, changeless sense of the world. Which takes time, as McLuhan points out. But having been incorporated, these technologies participate in the meaning-giving just like any other action. So it is with new media, as it has become part of our reality and has a precedent and an archetype that we can identify and build rituals around. And man, seeking to repeat the great Creation act, uses these sacred objects in his rituals every day.

Eliade’s philosophy promotes an idea of man that is rather intriguing. See, every religious person follows an act of repetition; the religious man has no new thing to announce, no unique quality to boast about. He acts almost as a machine, reveling in his renewal of sacred meaning as a reincarnation of the original Creator. Man finds himself having to always be following the paradigm in order to be meaningful, as the religious world only deals in what it knows and can situate in its eternal, unchanging picture.

We know that’s not true, though. We know new media emerges that the real, profane world readily adopts and must later assimilate into the meaningful, sacred world. As with print media, man adopts any new technology, develops its place in society, and then ritualizes its use just like any other sacred object. Now consider that McLuhan’s point about the mass man in an individualist society seems to be mirrored in Eliade’s point about the rituals that constitute man’s identity as an archetype. What is man supposed to repeat in a world that strives for individuality? What ritual can re-consecrate his meaning if he must act without a paradigm?

Thus we come to the point of the galaxy’s reconfiguration. Having accepted this new architecture in the eternal universal city, it has become ritualized such that man’s act of individual, unprecedented creation has taken on the form of the original act of Creation. Through our new mediums, we have started ritualizing our actions into an eternal, sacred recreations of the processes of creation. What a wonderful thing. And couple that with the growing ability for social, communal recreation! We have a technology now that allows communal rituals of re-Creation, constantly re-meaning-ifying our world. I mean, check out Facebook. It’s a time sink because it’s ritualistic; every action of Facebook has a precedent coded into its interface that allows man to acknowledge the paradigm and follow it. Hit like to like this. Consider that guys like this are out there trying to do this consciously: All media seems to perform this kind of ritualizing activity, but new media is rapidly growing and restructuring our lives with new rituals at an alarming rate. It’s hard to acclimate appropriately as the medium evolves so quickly; the message becomes “try to keep up”.

We are finding meaning in updating our rituals.

We’ve become meta-ritualistic due to our new media, which I think is pretty cool;

We find our rituals now to be rituals of renewal, but they’re rituals of the renewal of change, they’re rituals of re-ritualizing our world. We move from Myspace to Facebook and the ritual is actuated.

We go buy the latest technology as a ritual, to re-consecrate our world. It’s rather clever, really.

I guess that’s it.


6 thoughts on “In Icelandic you have to conjugate the nouns, too

    • I’d like to respond, “Is there a point to any ritual?” But I’m sure we could name a few easily.

      Eliade proposes that we perform rituals in order to re-enact a great event in our spiritual history; we take Communion because Jesus did, etc. In that sense, maybe we perform the Facebook ritual in order to re-enact the events of our own life, in order to make them meaningful; like posting pictures on Facebook of your weekend in Cancun and replying to your friends’ comments about them. It sort of validates the significance of the experience, which is what a ritual should do. I’m not saying that’s all Facebook can do, but that might be part of it.

      • So with Facebook we’re trying to reach out to something that is out there, but doesn’t have an an analogue in (historical) memory, to give it significance (and permanence)? I wonder why you want to do that? Are you a naturalist?

      • If by naturalist you mean “one who believes only in the natural world,” then I might be inclined to say yes, I am.

        Consider that our world is very socially oriented; to be a person of respect means you have to be socially accepted and recognized. It is a ritual in itself to be acknowledged; thus Facebook becomes the medium for this ritual of acknowledgement. In Christian cultures a similar process occurs with baptism, confirmation, etc; we are baptized/confirmed in front of a group, which makes the ritual significant, and permanent, within our socialized world. I doubt the significance of the ritual would be as tangible if it weren’t a shared experience within the culture.

        So, going to Cancun is fun, but the trip has no acknowledgement from our “meaning-giving” force, which happens to be our culture, our social culture. Thus when we ritualize our experience through Facebook the experience gains significance/permanence as we find our own experience validated by our peers and friends.

      • Thanks very much for taking the trouble to reply. So, in a few thousand years, facebook would harden into a kind of religion, where we do our first “like” dressed in our best clothes and accompanied by special music. Now you’ve made me want to read Eliade. I’ve only read a novel of his, “The Old Man and the Bureauracrats.” An Irish folklore professor once recommended him to me but I haven’t come around to reading him yet.

      • You’re welcome. And, perhaps given time and a social vacuum, we actually could see a religion of Facebookers. But with the way our culture moves, I doubt Facebook will last out this decade before we’re on to some new way of making our lives meaningful. It’s the curse of the secularized society. And Eliade’s an interesting scholar for sure, “The Sacred and the Profane” is a pretty good book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s