A Morning at White Rock Coffee
Still a little sick and with an aching toe I spent this morning at the coffee shop catching up on my Internet reading. Over at The Skeptical Walrus he commented on an essay from Big Questions Online which is subtitled “How does religious ritual preserve humanity from chaos and entropy?” The author’s position is that ritual (e.g. religious liturgy) allows us to create a holy space in order to “oppose the onrush of chaos in the name of life”.
Interesting article but from my perspective and my own low cost searching it seems he is mixing terms and metaphors to make his point.
Applying “Laws” of Physics seems a questionable starting point for an explanation of religious ritual. Even the word chaos is loaded. We generally use Chaos as opposed to Order, but usually that is a man made order, so almost by definition anything that doesn't line up with our human expectations is Chaos.
Using Physics is such a way is akin to finding a mathematical proof that Normal Rockwell is better than Rembrandt or vice versa.
Then there no distinction of which ritual, is all ritual good, are all religions the same?
One of my tales I have in my mental library is from a Psychology Today article I read in the early 1980s where the writer claimed that for some people, by joining some Church of Satan they actually turned their lives around and became what we would call “productive citizens” because it brought structure and meaning to their troubled lives. I think that article implied their religion was just a social structure that brought order to their chaotic lives. And I think you could also bend this guy's argument to the same end, in that people find order where there was was dis-order. But that does not necessarily mean anything beyond a superficial psychological band aid.
“Human beings must strive to be more than animals, better than animals — must strive not just to be but to be good, just, kind, holy. ” The unstated assumptions in that line overwhelm me, what kind of striving, what does he mean by better, just, kind and holy?
As an aside this line made me chuckle “Anglicans and Lutherans (and some other Protestants) celebrate the Eucharist also.” I guess he felt he had to cover his bases in case some liturgy loving protestant read his essay.
“Ritual that creates sanctity and separation teaches the Second Law implicitly. ”
From my exposure to ritual it actually the reverse, ritual when deeply felt creates unity and a sacredness that goes beyond the actual sacrament. I'll propose that ritual is like poetry. There can be beautiful and horrible poetry and sometimes you find it hard to figure out why one is “true” and another not. But when a poem works it speaks to something deep in you, and the same with ritual. Ritual when poetic and “true” (for lack of a better word) actually enables you to let go of your “self”, free and connected with the ritual and the people around you. The you and beyond don't seem to be a problem
And to end with “But the rituals we perform teach more than the Second Law: they teach us to defy the Second Law. ”
Shall we line up more “Laws” and try and defy Gravity
And after all that I offer the Tea Ceremony at the top as a ritual that just is. Why ruin it with thoughts of thermodynamics and all my middle school metaphysics.