Can new rituals wake up and direct lost souls?
By Hanne Caspersen
In the post-modern world most of us are de-traditionalized, we have lost our religion -in Western Europe churches are emptying-, we have lost the traditional ways of giving meaning to moments of change and transition. The way we mark important moments in our lives has become mostly shallow and commercial, the way companies mark important moments is mostly entertaining; filled with numbers about growth and achievements. It doesn't touch us, it doesn't stay with us.
Even the way we collect memorable moments has become ephemeral and immaterial; our pictures are merely snapshots, we share them with the world instantaneously, but hardly never look back at them (well, OK Facebook has recently introduced the function to share memories, but does it suck?) and do we ever save them for eternity by printing and framing them?
Living in the ‘now’
But the need for meaning, significance and spiritual fulfillment is still there inside us, in many ways we are searching for ways of filling the void; we practice yoga, mindfulness and meditation like never before; Deepak Chopra and Eckart Tolle are immensely popular, they respectively have 2.6 million and 500.000 followers on Twitter and run big businesses based on our crippled spiritual health and needs. This need seems to only increase as our world become more and more digital and connected. Because being always-on and in constant conversation is draining and it fragments our attention span and ability to concentrate, it even destructs our ability to think a thought, some people say.
The anti-dote to high-tech is high touch says John Naisbitt, a famous futurist. We respond to always being connected by digitally detoxing ourselves, slowing down and reflecting on things, with crafting and creativity. The maker movement has a huge following; people spend more time than is economically justifiable on making and creating stuff that could easily be bought. And they hack away to make stuff that can do things just because it's fun. More and more people are discontinuing their career to enterprise into their passion, which perhaps used to be their hobby. Having worked in Mergers & Acquisitions for a big company, and now chose to work for a sustainable bank. Having been a manager and now running a business in sustainable wood and furniture making. People choose to live in ‘the now.’
Millenials want unique experiences
What's more? There is a new generation joining adulthood, the Millennials, and they have differentexpectations to life and work. A 2015 survey by AON Hewitt found that 30% of millennials said ‘fun’ was in most need of improvement in their current office.’ If today's employers and cities want to contain Millenials in their workforce and population they have got to offer them experiences. Experiences that arefun and entertaining. The celebration of yearly financial numbers or organizational change will need to be celebrated with unique events with a creative touch to keep the Millenials contended. Similarly cities will have to connect with the sub-cultural creative elite to create unique and memorable family events that connect people.
New forms of spirituality
Also in the afterlife there is a need for new meaning and rituals. In 2008 Nadine Jarvis started to design death and new rituals for the post mortem. One of her most famous pieces is the idea of turning the ashes of a lost one into pencils. ‘From an average body of ash 240 pencils can be made - a lifetime supply of pencils for those left behind. Each pencil is foil stamped with the name of the person. Only one pencil can be removed at a time, it is then sharpened back into the box causing the sharpenings to occupy the space of the used pencils. Over time the pencil box fills with sharpenings - a new ash, transforming it into an urn. The window acts as a timeline, showing you the amount of pencils left as time goes by.’ Nadine’s work is provocative, it challenges us to think about death and the afterlife in new ways, she's designing rituals that trespass on existing notions and moral.
New business and education is being created to fulfill the new spiritual need. The Monument started educating Ritual-companions in 2003 and have now educated 500, they fill the void that the church has left behind and accompany people that are terminally ill, infuse funerals with rituals in remembrance of the deseased and even marking the transition to adulthood. (de Volkskrant, November 2, 2014)
So in a way we are lost souls in need, with our spiritual anchor gone. We are searching for meaning, we need to find new ways to reflect on important moments and change, we need lasting memorabilia that capture moments and thoughts so that we can keep them with us. And mostly we need someone to help us invent new forms of spirituality that can work with our life as it is today. The world needs more modern alchemists and shamans to help us find meaning, to create meaning. To create memorable moments and symbolic meaning.
Can you design a memory? Can you catch a dream? Can you distill an emotion? Yes! You can accomplish the seemingly impossible; create new meaning out of the mundane and materialize the ephemeral. It's magic.