Human Behaviour is an interesting phenomena that manifests in as many variations and pattern as Earth has diversity in its life forms. Yet despite all the thousands of ways humans choose or are compelled to behave and move about in the world, there is generally one behaviour we all share that has tied all of humans together across cultures and across time: Ritual.
Ritual, though not exactly unique to humans, is as important to humanity’s development as consciousness, or language, or storytelling. It’s true that other life forms can be observed engaging in ritual mating practices or migration patterns. However human animal is the only animal on Earth that deliberately performs and employs ritual to achieve a specified aim or desired effect. Human civilizations have throughout history, developed their own series of deliberately timed rituals of all kinds to for the purpose of tying a group of people together to maintain their bond as a society, and to reveal the nature of the environment or universe it exists. This is done to ensure a cultural identity and to ensure its own longevity.
Civilizations pass down all sorts of wisdom from one generation to the next in the form of ritual exercises that are acted out by members of the society and that reflect a given Civilization’s world view. Be it a newborn child’s bris, an adolescents First Communion, a daily cycle of evenly spaced prayer, or an elder’s funeral, ritual not only acts as a waypoint marker on the Human animals journey across life and time, but it serves as a way of disseminating crucial knowledge that future generations will need to have in order to ensure a Civilization’s survival so it can begin to thrive. This is why most early civilizations tend to have a heavy reliance on a religious infrastructure because, throughout history, religious institutions have been providing humanity with the rituals and symbols needed for man to face and bear the struggle of being alive and staying that way whilst on this spinning wet rock crawling with danger in one of the most remote areas of the galaxy. Ritual is what has allowed humans crawl out of the woods, band together as a unit to ensure survival, and be disciplined enough to nurture tribes into empires. By studying the stars and learning the precise timing of seasonal shifts, humans began enacted rituals to punctuate when to plant crops, when to harvest, and when to stock up for the winters or droughts when no crops grew.
One ritual that has endured and transformed humanity in incalculable ways is writing. Once a skill reserved only for the most elite priests and kings, writing allowed humanity to preserve ideas and knowledge in ways that enabled one to communicate across time. The earliest book ever written, generated in Mesopotamia by Babylonian and Sumerian cultures, is The Epic of Gilgamesh. This epic poem served as the first written template for humanity to reference over the centuries as it generated myths and legends to explain its ever evolving system of beliefs and communicate its values. Ever since then, kings and emperors have used the written word to recount their heroic adventures and conquests, and propagandise their exploits to carry their reputation beyond the walls of their kingdoms, across lands, and across time.
Writing is the primary ritual practice of any king or queen. The Assyrian conquerer Sennacherib would send stone tablets filled with his writings that gave very detailed and equally gory descriptions of how he brought entire kingdoms to their knees so as to compel any presiding monarch to capitulate with out bloodshed. The Caesars of Rome very dutifully journaled their genocidal marches across the European continent as they systematically eliminated native Celtic, Gallic, and Germanic tribes to bolster their wealth and renown. The Books of the Old Testament where written by a successive line of Prophet Kings. Any look back at history shows that the word of the king is always the primary resource and any king who did not make their writing into a rite, was a king who history has nothing to say about.
It’s that simple.
So you who are a poet, an artist, a singer, a writer, if you die TODAY, what will history and humanity have available to begin to piece together and understand the universe you lived and existed in?
Now tell me again about how you can’t ever bring yourself to write anything so that I can ask, with a heavy dose of snark, what habits you have designed and incorporated into your daily life that make your writing into a rite in the same manner that religion has made prayer and meditation into a daily practice?
Whoa, what a concept!
YOU can DESIGN and dictate YOUR behaviour through RITUAL.
So rite your writing already!