Delicious grilled squash sandwich and slaw at the consummately Austin-y Foodheads on 34th: deep human need or mere habit?
Yesterday’s post on my perennial pipedream of eradicating God for the good of all creatures great and small hasn’t sparked quite the controversy of, say, an essay on the feministo-ideological pitfalls of an intimate allegiance to lipstick, but the insidiosity of religion suddenly appeals to me as almost as intriguing a topic and persistent an instrument of oppression as women’s cosmetics, particularly as the time of glittery polyester holiness approacheth. So welcome to Sod Off, God! Week.
By the way, I choose the phrase ‘sod off’ because ‘sod’ rhymes with ‘god’, not, as is certain to be suggested, because I wish to outlaw sodomy and declare that girls who love butt sex are bad feminists.
Although, you know, eeeww.
Anyway, during yesterday’s discussion one of the veteran blamers idly wondered what would become, in the absence of organized religion, of the “apparently deep human need for ritual.”
Which got me thinkin. You’re always hearing about deep human needs. Experts promote’em, and how to fulfill’em, more or less constantly. Deep human needs are in the New York Times, they’re on Oprah, they’re on NPR; humans deeply need sex, laws, babies, boobs, guns, money, self-esteem, perfect little white cotton T-shirts to wear with absolutely everything, and foie gras. We’re up to our knees in deep human kneeds.
But do we really need all those needs?
Having just endured a profoundly anti-Twisty annus horribilis, a year notable here at the bungalow for the relentless tortures both physical and emotional visited upon my person, I am intimate with the radical notion that subsistence is entirely possible sans a veritable buttload of what are generally considered bare necessities: Estrogen. Food. Boobs. Eyelashes. Lymph nodes. Pooping. Sleep. A weight-bearing leg. A sane hypothalamus. A sunny disposition. An un-addled brain. A body that isn’t trying to kill you, etc.
Most of the aforementioned stuff falls into the category of homÅ“ostasis (the maintenance of constant bodily conditions), which stasis certain very prominent psychobabblians have declared, along with air and water, to be among the deepest of deep human needs. Yet here I am to tell the tale, homÅ“ostasis-less but bright and chipper all the same (it should be noted that throughout my assorted hair-raising surgeries and death-defying cancer treatments, I was never far from at least one dog. Draw your own conclusions). In other words, even dying hasn’t killed me yet. So one of the things I really have to find out — I’ve got a list — is how many of these “deep human needs” — such as the need to not be dying — are in fact just habits.
Take ritual, for instance. My suspicion is that ritual is no deep human need. As a concept it gives off quite the lip-wrinkling whiff of eau du primitif. And what about that trio of stinky undertones — conformity, obeisance, and orthodoxy — that comes with it? Add the collateral conditions of exclusivity and tradition, and you got yourself all the field marks of one of those bogus assumptions that status-quoticians are always trumpeting as “natural” or “instinctive” but which are really just tools of the patriarchy or opiates of the people or what have you. You know. “Big tits are sexy.” “Women’s minds are naturally less inclined toward mathematics.” “Van Morrison is a genius.” Etc.
It’s tempting to buy the argument that ritual satiates some essential human craving, because it’s so exceedingly successful at selling itself. Rituals of the godbag variety alluringly promise face-time with the Divine, of course, but even when they are secular in nature (weddings, graduations, male bonding at the strip club) they offer tantalizing rewards: they purport to protect a given parochial community against change. In exchange for promoting a cozy feeling of security in the comforting embrace of venerated dogma or cultural narrative, they demand submission to the group ideology, which submission one must publicly demonstrate by the performance of meaningless practices. The practices supposedly have symbolic value, but critical analysis of the symbol in question is gonna reveal doctrine steeped in ancient patriarchal orthodoxy wrapped in flat-out bullshit, every time.
My conclusion, after ruminating about this for a couple of hours is that (a) Hell wouldn’t freeze over if the Obstreperons sprayed the planet with a ritual-neutralizing ray, and (b) the performance of rituals seems more consistent with the practices of the hive mind than with those of the enlightened mind, because ritual doesn’t deliver. It doesn’t prevent change, and it sure as heck doesn’t bring a cultist closer to God, because, well, you know.
You’re saying, “But Twisty, I like buying a Christmas tree and putting out all the quaint figurines that were some mid-20th century sentimentalist’s idea of well-to-do Edwardian ice-skating carolers.” To which I reply, “Bring it, homeslice.” My interest here is speculation on the nature of the motivation behind ritual, not in skewering individuals for their seasonal habits. I know, I know, but I had to mention it. People get so touchy.
So anyway, in the absence of organized religion and its holy spin-off, Xmas consumerism, maybe everyone could finally quit spending the whole month of November scrambling for parking spaces as they spazz around town buying a bunch of cheap crap from China to give to relatives who irritate them, and instead they could just go about their normal lives, i.e. lying around watching Turner Classic Movies on cable and kvetching about pole dancing.