Sunday, June 27

To become a stranger to the world's ways || Everything else is advertising

Been thinking a lot about The Rule of St. Benedict: The Instruments of Good Works #20:

To become a stranger to the world's ways.

And Michael Hastings, reporter from Rolling Stone, defending his publication of "on background" and "not for attribution" remarks from Gen. Stanley McChrystal:

"Hard not to respond to this without going back to an old saying. I'm paraphrasing: Reporting is what someone somewhere doesn't want known," Hastings wrote. "Everything else is advertising."

Wondering: how much of this world is NOT advertising? How much of my attention is "paid" to advertising?  How much of my time is "spent" listening to the internal monologue/virus that is the language of advertising? How to prevent it from inserting itself into the grammar anymore than it already has?

How to maintain purity? Ritual.

Three quotes from [pdf] Purity and Danger: An analysis of the concepts of pollution and taboo by Mary Douglas:

"Ritual recognizes the potency of disorder. In the disorder of the mind, in dreams, faints and frenzies, ritual expects to find powers and truths which cannot be reached by conscious effort. Energy to command and special powers of healing come to those who can abandon rational control for a time. Sometimes an Andaman Islander leaves his band and wanders in the forest like a madman. When he returns to his senses and to human society he has gained occult power of healing. This is a very common notion, widely attested."

"In these beliefs there is a double play on inarticulateness. First there is a venture into the disordered regions of the mind. Second there is the venture beyond the confines of society. The man who comes back from these inaccessible regions brings with him a power not available to those who have stayed in the control of themselves and society"

"During the marginal period which separates ritual dying and ritual rebirth, the novices in the initiation are temporarily outcast. For the duration of the rite they have no place in society. Sometimes they actually go to live far away outside. Sometimes they live near enough for unplanned contacts to take place between full social beings and the outcasts."

I once asked a monk at the Monastery in the Desert if he ever thought that he was running away from the world by secluding himself out in the Desert. I expected him to reply that he was doing the precise opposite: turning away from the superficial world into the profound. Instead, he said it depends upon where you stand. If you are on the inside then those who move outside of the circumference of the world are often seen as "running away" from their social responsibilities. But for those who are searching in the darkness, when they step beyond the pale, they see that others have come before them, that there is a path that leads them to sanctuary. Often, he continued, I hope that our responsibilities to society are similar to those of the lighthouse keeper. We have built this structure that stands upon the border between two worlds so that those within might find a measure of reassurance that there is someone out here, trying to live in a more rigorous, religious manner. But more: that those that are lost out there in the beyond can find a way home.