Ritual and Anti-Ritual

The capacity to improvise is up at the top of the skills I advocate developing. If you read Keith Johnstone's book Impro, Improvisation for the Theater, you will notice that he is acutely aware of the process of conditioning. That is because improvisation is in the category of things that happen too fast for analysis. If you are making choices you are not improvising. If you are consulting a voice in your head you are actually experiencing a type of "freeze," your pre-frontal cortex is suppressing action. Improvisors leap before they look.

In my book Possible Origins, I originally wrote that we live in an anti-ritual society (USA). Several reader-editors didn't understand this section so I changed it. But it is an important question to ponder and one I think gets too little attention. Unfortunately I am in the middle of a chaotic whirlwind of activity and I'm not going to give this issue the attention it deserves. Instead, I'm providing some provocative links.

First is this post from Askblog. Think about this in terms of ritual as a form of conditioning, positive and negative reinforcements. You can just skip to the preview of the paper: Rituals Improve Children’s Ability to Delay Gratification

The martial arts too often proffer the conceit of instrumentalist thinking, do X to learn Y, practice this technique, etc... But the good stuff often happens unconsciously. Conditioned responses often have nothing to do with what is spoken or explicated. 

Now pop out to the level of culture and think about the ritual of foot-binding. In the late 19th early 20th Century this was considered the quintessential example of "bad" ritual. Bound Feet, Young Hands.  This is a convincing argument about the instrumental-economic purpose of foot-binding. That doesn't mean it is correct. Here is my summary of Dorothy Ko's book on the subject. In 2007 I made an amazing historical discovery about foot-binding, which I am not prepared to defend against all this new and amazing work, but from the point of view of foot-binding as ritual it is still great stuff, eh, Potent Stuff

And then I might as well ask, why don't people test for their Black Belts wearing Scottish kilts anymore?  Awesome right? Thanks to Joseph Svinth for this. And here is a wonderful video that goes with it. 

I especially love all the New Age stuff in here! Okay, most readers know I come from Hippie Royalty, and I was on location when New Age was invented. It was the idea that society is made through the games we play and the myths we tell. Hippies were society revolutionaries, and the New Age was just that, an attempt to invent games and create myths that would produce a new society. One of the first and most exciting examples of this were the New Games Tournaments. These were some of the funnest happenings ever. What I didn't know, and I'm pretty sure most Hippies didn't know, is that a bunch of this stuff came from WW1 military training. Note particularly the "Earth Ball" games in the video, and the group floating body games where an individual is tossed in the air, floated, or organically maneuvered around in a circle. 

Okay, I await your reactions.