I went to a funeral today my first funeral but not the funeral of somebody of whom I was particularly close… What struck me during this service this Christian service of a man who wasn’t a Christian was the shallowness of the words the words spoken by the Priest- a kindly fellow- they were so insufficient those words… A man the dead man I’m referring to an individual summarized as a being in just a few sentences that didn’t scratch the beyond the surface of fact! Facts! The fact that he enjoyed spending time in the garden the fact that he was interested in plants the fact that he visited his (now ninety-seven year old) mother regularly… The fact that he was disappointed when due to ill health he was forced to relinquish his driving license and the fact he will be remembered for having a plant stall at Wimborne market.
After the delicate listing of these facts the casket of the subject of these facts was then slowly and automatically by means of electronical device plunged- as if occupying a sunken bath- into a hole that had been concealed under the clothed table… And throughout this… gesture of a burial… accompanying this gesture of a burial… was the most insipid yet smotheringly sentimental music that on receiving forced my mind to wander into a Hollywood landscape of tearful goodbyes of Lassie and loved ones leaving… How can I concentrate on my goodbye? How can I? How can I be near near this man in the hole like a bath and the music from Movies? But it is normal! It is a comfort to conventional sensibilities so I am told… But such pain to witness collective acceptance of such spurious beauty! And such beauty it would be to celebrate feeling real pain.
Convenience Sanitization Fear
Apparently the ritual bearing the most importance in contemporary society has at its center the object/tool/phenomenon known as the television. China tea services and cucumber sandwiches served on a tray make way for a bag in a mug and a dry plastic triangle eaten whilst working and stressing or racing feverishly from A to B. Faced with a perpetual race against time we flee from the rush and flock to a box to relax. It sucks away silence- prescribes us with slots of time that dictate
I am a million miles away from you sitting beside me I cannot speak I dare not spill my feeling I would rather spill my mug of tea all over your trousers feel it burning clinging sugar to the scorched skin feel my distance what’s on next? Look at me! Look into my eyes quickly whilst the adverts are on tear your mug away it’s only adverts I am here in this moment look at me I love you I hate you smell my scent love me I am lost another mug perhaps?
Speech. If ritual can be defined as a non-verbal communication or meaning then what of the parallel between man’s ritual and verbal language? The art of language; the joy of constructing the perfect sentence evident in days gone by- perfectly polite heavy with subtext rich with poetry and complex syntax- is no longer common place Hello and yes become Hi and yeah; the secret celebration of the mumble murmur mutter minimum effort grunted (articulation is a long word). Like convenience food this new evolved language saves time grunt yeah but does it? Does convenience really save time?
Life extended. The obsession with sanitization! Anti-bacterial sprays hold hands with asthma and eczema; the crises of the once infallible anti-biotic’s demise Jab me with flu! Let me feel the fever rise! I need to feel myself writhe and burn and vomit to learn that my body is sacred- to respect the intangible; things like a germ a change or a god Refined sugar preserves transplants of face laughing grotesque perfect tomatoes thrown clowning with cloning. My image ME the individual not us but ME I want this I will beat them that Ego go you I am better
Ritual unites: we sat and watched telly together! Ritual excites: the X-factor is on! Ritual extends: I know what it’s like to live in a rainforest! I know what it is to live and to grieve! I know what it’s like to give birth to a baby! The TV has taught me (and I don’t watch soaps) all about life with its wonders and sorrows And should somebody die? Of course I know what to do in the context of my morally hygienic culture. Naturally. The inconvenience of death; the grisly problem of disposal Dial a number pay some money: quick clean efficient done dusted forgotten. Tick! Yeah Funeral out the way- alien ritual- thank God we can watch TV and be seduced once again by reality and constructed stars
But let us not speak of death death is depressing and that is a fact.
Once upon a time ritual was sacred. The seduction of the void- the unfathomable- the place beyond 3D reality time and space; the seduction of God! Ritual provided an awesome straddling bridge connecting these two differing realms Like magic we are delivered from the bondage of temporality and thus defy the illusion of time. Yes. The impotence of technology; only the mind’s construction will conquer time and space
Accept my wailing let me rub your blood and juices into my hair dear departed one. I will revel in the filth of my humanity with the ecstasy of a pig rolling in the mineral-rich mud. Allow me to howl with words that will smother the clean cream carpet of fear and denial with the stinking heavy footprints of love’s pain. (Give me a theatre!) The dirtier the shag pile my exquisite love! the healthier I will feel Whole:
Birth without death is as absurd as love without pain. Ritual unites the sacred and profane.