Thursday, January 24, 2013

the death of ritual

In the past, especially, the ritualistic was important. Part of ritual had to do with the manipulation of physical things -- candles, wine, scrolls, etc. -- as mediating substances between the human and the divine. With these items and their formal use, the tangible and the symbolic became, paradoxically, one.

They say that digital media is supplanting physical media. Music, movies, and books are increasingly available as digital phenomena. They say that CDs, DVDs, and paper books are on the way out.

I suppose that's the way things are indeed trending. Soon, we'll be a culture of pure convenience. Everything swift and downloadable. But I wonder what that's doing to consciousness? Soon, society will consist of humanoid creatures devoid of ritual talismans. Hell, we'll probably end up with strange clinical people implanting music, movies, and texts straight into our palpitating brains.

But I'm a dinosaur. Yes, digital platforms and delivery are convenient. But I still want the ritual of touching the physical items. I like being in those moments of paradox, when the CD, DVD, and paper book represent a way of touching what is also beyond touching -- the musical experience, the cinematic experience, the literary experience.

The tactile is primal and good.

I like to open the CD case, remove the disc, and handle the booklet. Same with DVDs. And when I'm holding an actual book, I'm in a more intense communion with the text than when reading from a screen. To sense the weight and texture of the real book, to feel the movement of a turning page, to wonder at the mystery of a transcendentalizing object in my hands -- these are experiences I prefer to keep in my repertoire of time and being.

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