Repurposing Rites

There is a certain thrill in hollowing out a framework and replacing its content. The form serves another purpose. Take for instance the six rights regarding the administration of medication which can be adopted and generalized to communication situations. (http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance/pedagogy/sixrights.htm).

Right Drug
Correct message
Right Dose
Correct number of instances of the message(s)
Right Resident
Correct audience
Right Route
Correct mode
Right Time
Correct time
Right documentation
Correct metadata

Of Drugs, Messages and Time suggests “Exercises that enable students to conceive of themselves as creators and as custodians and as commentators flow from the observation and description of transactions. ”

The method can be applied to other areas such as this take on Christian sacraments:

Mon, April 4, 2005

Kathleen,

Your recent post and comments on the Catholic Church got me thinking of sacraments. They seem to be signs of the incarnation which I relate in some history of ideas fashion to the socialist value placed on labour as making the world.

Norman Pittenger in the entry from the Encyclopedia Americana writes:

All Christians, except the Society of Friends, have accepted baptism and the Eucharist as sacraments “generally necessary to salvation,” in the sense that their use is the normal way to admission to and participation in, the benefits of Christ […] Catholic Christianity in both eastern and western forms, has said there are five other rites, of a sacramental nature, which may properly be called sacraments. These are confirmation, marriage, absolution or penance, holy orders or the rite of setting-apart for the ministry, and unction or the anointing of the sick or dying.

In what might be a heretical move for a believer, I have had fun mapping these 7 sacraments onto the work of the literary critic or the life of an academic [or an organic intellectual].

Baptism
a naming — I am a reader
Confession
I have not read everything; I desire to read more; there are somethings I have read; there are somethings I do no wish to read
Communion
I belong to a body of readers; their confessions are similar in form to mine but they take different objects (they’ve seen flicks I haven’t and would never want to view movies that I would gladly watch thrice over)
Confirmation
degrees — marks of accreditation not to be confused with peer recognition
Holy Orders
not the same as taking vows to become a mendicant Franciscan or a contemplative Carmelite; taking up the activity of professing; an organic intellectual would be a teacher of some sort able to hear confession and dispense absolution and solemnize marriages
Marriage
the publication of “offspring” recombinant memes
Last rites
Archiving, donating and otherwise disposing of cultural artefacts; the bodies of the community readers don’t seem to require this rite; the reader it appears does not need last rites… extreme unction, perhaps. Last rites would be like writing dust jacket blurbs that call out to readers … reading will change your life. From this perspective all the sacraments seem to tend to an anointing of the sick and the dying.

In the Church of Literature, every act of reading is a self-anointment: the reader comes to occupy the position of both minister and ministered.

The sacraments so transposed seem to invoke the Benedictine rule, ora et labor, and recall the workings of a meeting where waiting upon the spirit to move through the friends gathered in silence.
Could it be that the paths opened up by Vatican II have allowed many ex-lapsed Catholics (who are never going back) to take the lessons of their catechism and live lives patterned on the sacraments? Would they not be people who have considered that the Anglican Book of Common Prayer states “The unworthiness of the minister hindereth not the sacraments” for these are “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace” and not so much moved on as adapted the form to a new reading?

Living in ceremony; writing in ritual; reading in carnival.

McSweeney’s 31 devoted to the refurbishing of old forms has a consuetudinary done by Shelley Jackson in which we read:

Reading takes place in the past—you have to raise the dead to recall where we started. The word of sits up, shaking off damp clods and cobwebs, the rises in turn, raising a skeletal arm; and structure points a juridical finger. Of course, all looking is looking into the past, as de Selby has shown, but the special kind of looking that is reading permits a look further back than ordinary looking, without mirrors or telescopes. Thus reading was not just an intimation of her further interest in the dead, but a form of First Contact, albeit unrecognized as such. What, after all, is a ghost? It is an inanimate object or substance—a parch of cold air, a light that comes and goes, a gelatinous blob growing in the basement—that is endowed with some of the properties of intelligent life, but not all. It bears the imprint of the thoughts and desires of someone long gone.

And what is a book?

Consuetudinary of the Word Church, or the Church of the Dead Letter

The editors of McSweeney’s rightly preface this pastiche with the reminder that “Read today, consuetudinaries provide invaluable insight into the longstanding traditions of a lifestyle closed off from the outside world.” Ivory tower?

And so for day 2008
12.06.2012

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