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Mitchell_Porter comments on The Value (and Danger) of Ritual - Less Wrong

29 Post author: Raemon 30 December 2011 06:52AM

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Comment author: Mitchell_Porter 31 December 2011 02:51:11PM 9 points [-]

Taking Oneself Too Seriously, which is a capital crime over here

Celia Green - a British author - once wrote "[Children] seek intensity of experience. They do not have much experience of life and they may seek it clumsily. As they grow older and saner they learn not to seek it at all."

The injunction not to take oneself seriously, if taken seriously, would lead to self-sabotage and guaranteed mediocrity. Much better that people try and fail, and still keep trying. Even better to get it right, but I do not see how an attitude of unseriousness will help there.

Green is a brilliant thinker who somehow ended up shut out of academic life, and her best works (The Human Evasion and Advice to Clever Children) are full of insights into why taking yourself seriously is the only reasonable thing to do, how and why ordinary consciousness works to suppress such an attitude, and how to see past the traps that your own mind or the attitudes of others may set for you. They are also full of imprecations against the human race for not supporting her work, but perhaps she has a right to that attitude. There ought to be a shelf full of commentary on her works by now (and surely she would have filled a shelf by herself if her life had worked properly), but somehow she remains unknown.

Here is another salient quote from Green: (After scorning the fact that most poetry is about "Love and Death":) "If the human race were a little more advanced, it would want to write poems about infinity and the inconceivable..., and if it were more advanced still it would have more urgent things to do than write poetry."

Substitute "hold a ritual" for "write poetry", and you'll get my message. I do believe that this is what functioning higher intelligence looks like: extremely urgent and directed in its activities, when it is empowered to be so. Life is short and existence is radically uncertain. "Ritual" may be something of a proxy for purpose, but at least it is reaching after empowerment.

Comment author: Raemon 31 December 2011 05:53:44PM *  0 points [-]

To the extent that we did ritual "because it was fun", I think it was a proxy purpose approximately to the same degree that watching a good movie was. Entertainment may change but it's not going away - it's valuable for its own sake.

But some of our group are actively doing important things, and I don't think those things would ever "replace" the function that ritual serves. To the extent that we're doing ritual as a source of community building and inspiration, it basically serves the purpose that it's meant to serve, which is to give you a foundation to go do those things that are more important than writing poetry.