Goosebumps

3.0.07

the celebration, the conviviality in a grand scale, the theater of society

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While the previous key concepts get overlooked because their words feel already too cliché or kytschy, or because we had to borrow the forgotten words from now alien languages, the following concept has no word, as far as I know. A Celebration? An Event? Something Epic? A Pathos? A bit more, a bit different. Therefore I use approximation through one of the signs that it might produce: goosebumps.

Bad, bad, bad ideas ... that humans like

When one watches opulent Nazi marches in formations, with signs and flags and torches, or the Soviet military marches, or Spartakiada-style synchronized gymnastics, or Korean living picture shows - surely it evokes wonder over how crazy humankind can be. For liberal mind it represents an image of social engineering, humbling of an individual in the great abstract and artificial ideas, turning a human life into a replaceable cog wheel in a machine, or imposing of an idea/ideology - and of course the horrors achievable by the manipulated masses. Though the point is not the sheer stupidity of it, in fact - it still works. Why?


An epic theater of human objects...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Bundesarchiv

... to fool the senses ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Bundesarchiv

... with just one sadistic spectator.
(Credits): AWM - Public Domain

At that time compulsory ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Thomas Taylor Hammond

... though for many quite a feast ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Thomas Taylor Hammond

... describing the ethos of society.
(Credits): Wikipedia - Thomas Taylor Hammond

The concept may feel alien ...

... the pretext may be dubious ...

... but the attraction is timeless.

Rectangular thinking ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - RMD

... glory to the obedience ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - RMD

... never out of fashion.
(Credits): Wikipedia - Kremlin

Using the masses to entertain the rulers ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Flickr - David Stanley

... or ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Flickr - Kok Leng Yeo

... using the rulers to entertain the massess?
(Credits): Wikipedia - Prohibit Onions

Using a symbolic parallel of a contemporary dance - that has moved far away from synchronized drone exercises (unlike folk or pop music clips) - the geometric/calculated formations of human bodies nowadays cause an odd awe. Carrying, displaying, raising, waving of the flags in inhuman artificial gestures, especially speaking of nation and nationalism rituals, causes at least slight discomfort. Up to a point, when we think of synchronized cheering at the football stadiums, or waves of hands at the concert, or clapping of hands in theater, marching bands and cheerleader acts, Olympic game ceremonies. There's something fascinating about being connected through simple common intention/cause/interest, co-creating and feeling the strength of the mass that we are a part of. Tiny individual experiencing an inhuman-scale power of the collective that he belongs to. It's one of the expressions of celebration - and at least couple of times a year it is vital experience for the community or the whole society. Whatever stupid pretexts we find for it.


And this suddenly does not feel ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Yann Caradec

... suspect or artifical ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - U.S. Navy

... as it was devised on the right side?
(Credits): Wikipedia - Robert J. La Verghetta

Entertainment and mass emotional outlet ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Corpx

... over a simple and comprehensible concept ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Flickr - Oscar Federico Bodini

... reviving of blood-thirsty ancient instincts.
(Credits): Wikipedia - Granada

Witnessing art happening ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Sarmad Yaseen

Being the magic together ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Délmagyarország/Schmidt Andrea

Feeling the brotherhood ...
(Credits): pxhere - Public Domain

We can feel the contradiction between the "liberal" focus on individual story - and the opposing "conservative" need of feeling the unity. The display of latter is often associated with totalitarian societies - though it is not an unknown Jungian shadow of individualist societies either. This invokes the depth psychology again - and expresses the play of natural taoist opposites. Human beings crave to be unique, exceptional, irreplaceable and needed in the whole, to enjoy attention and "15 minutes of glory" (in overt and covert ways, depending on personality types) - and in the same time crave to belong, be part of, co-create a magnificent spectacle, for the sake of confirmation of beauty, grasping and retelling a story of our interconnected lives, to express conviviality through festivity - just in larger than personal scale. Many people take sides and express sharp opinion which part of the polarity is right, even if this seems illogical to the nature of the Soul. This dynamic is always present as a whole. Whether we talk about football fans, religious sect, hobby gang, nationalists or separatists, minority, community - any such group always encompasses the belonging and the exceptionality - they connect similar individuals with a specific interest which in one breath (spirit!) sets them apart from the rest, the other. We need to be a part of something (eastern emphasis) and to set ourselves apart as the independent individuals (western emphasis). I sense that the habitable zone for the soul lies somewhere in between.


Pilgrim, physical effort with symbolic value ...
(Credits): pxhere - Public Domain

... conviviality over shared pretext ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Andreas Steinhoff

... celebrating unity in diversity.
(Credits): Wikipedia - Roberto Gordo Saez (R0b3rt0)

Cultural cross-inspirations

First time I saw the concept of Celebration being seriously considered and grasped from the philosophical perspective - was in I-Jing, thousands-of-years old Chinese oracle (as well as a book of advice, collected and used by emperors, ministers, chairmen, and businessmen alike), particularly the Hexagram 59, which is quite self-explanatory:

"The common celebration of the great sacrificial feasts and sacred rites, which gave expression simultaneously to the interrelation and social articulation of the family and state, was the means of employed by the great ruler to unite men. The sacred music and the splendor of the ceremonies aroused a strong tide of emotion that was shared by all hearts in unison, and that awakened a consciousness of the common origin of all creatures. In this way disunity was overcome and rigidity dissolved. A further means to the same end is co-operation in great general undertakings that set a high goal for the will of the people; in the common concentration on this goal, all barriers dissolve, just as, when a boat is crossing a great stream, all hands must unite in a joint task."

I know this may feel awkward to relate to, for the more independent spirits. We may think of "goose-bumping" as a machiavelist political strategy to move the masses... and conduct unimaginable crimes. On the other hand we can take a look at it also from the reverse perspective: All the dictators of the world (whether they claim or believe that they want to achieve some sort of societal good) use this technique because it works. It’s not even a disease, nor a weak-spot of human being. It’s just one of those frequencies where our soul listens and is accessible. In wider take, rather than a beehive mentality, I’d call it a need - that searches for its expressions. The less we recognize it, the less we know about it – the more manipulation we risk. The idea that everything trustworthy and sane must be humble, down-to-earth, minimalist, subjective and independent - is at best naïve, at worst totally derailed.


Holy ritual ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - U.S. Air Force

... unity ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Flickr - Barry Thomas

... wonder and peace.
(Credits): Wikipedia - TSGT Rick Sforza

Where to go from there? What to do with it? How to employ this knowledge? How to shift from the symptoms to the essence?

As much as the conviviality is important for the individual, the communal feasts and celebrations feed the soul’s desire for perspective. I doubt anyone will close the stadiums or cinemas or churches or cancel the music festivals or national holidays anytime soon. Often, these are the highlights of our year or even life. It is rather ironic, that the society as a whole, so indulgent in festivities with ridiculous pretext (e.g. sportive show-off of the best among the best), does not feel that same interconnection on the environmental level. We are the (often tumorous) cells within an ecosystem, whose health directly conditions our health and whose collapse would take us with it. Is it a reflection of our intellectual suspicions towards the holistic expressions? Or is it rather this content - the meaning - that is missing from our communal and (inter)national celebrations - something that used to be integral part and the essence of the tribal rituals of the past?


The small and large communities alike ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Geograph - Hugh Scott

... honor their elders, heroes, endowed ones ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Shahnoor Habib Munmun

... in ritualistic annual parades: "this is us"
(Credits): Wikipedia - Ubergamer1337

"We were there to celebrate ... "
(Credits): Wikipedia - Flickr - Big Day Out

" ... we were part of the magic ... "
(Credits): Wikipedia - Sgt Andy Malthouse ABIPP

" ... we are the witnesses of the exceptional moment. "

There’s so much art obsessed with deconstructing, revolting against, liberating itself from the old artistic schemes and concepts. Humbleness of personal sharing, minimalism if not asceticism, multitude of interpretations - are worshiped features. Often, the individual artistic self-exhibition of talent and the technical mastery overshadows any meaning, message, moral - since those have become old fashioned concepts evoking intellectual sneer. Everyone is free to interpret anything ... and no one really does. Of course, liberal arts claim license to express in whatever way one feels sensible - this is just a commentary on something resembling a fashion wave and a disappearance of a particular and important element: the event with interconnecting quality, feeling of being part of something big and magnificent and spectacular and beautiful, seeing individual human efforts in bigger pictures, a dramatic arch in the time-line of daily routines of our life.


This can't be experienced at home
(Sharing the interest at the festival)

Sharing the beauty
(sunset magic at one of the Angkor temples)

This does not happen in front of TV
(Sharing the joy at the concert)

I often wonder how feasts and festivals are organized without any regard towards this non-existing unnamed concept. With minimalist, almost corporate approach - a venue, a schedule, a list of names - see and move on, hear and move on, do and move on. Not only the artists miss out on goosebumps element, the organizers of whole events often forget to offer this "transcending" quality. It is connected to nostalgia, memories, it places individual on various time-lines, it allows him to realize his presence, his existence, his consciousness. Whether it is a particular song at a dance party or festival, a specific ritual at the gathering, a material or immaterial gift to take with oneself.


Is it an exchange, or just people in the same spot?

Just a party, or tangible connection?

What do we take home - a memory or a sense of belonging?

We know what it is, because each one of us has already felt it at least once.

When was the last time you saw a movie that made you feel a "part of". Working with an acute topic that binds or divides the community?

When was the last time, on the last festival you attended to, when you not only heard "nice music", but felt connection with the group, transcending from mere "here and now" even further?

When was the last time on a gathering of your community, during the elaborate ritual, when this particular anchoring feeling came to you and persisted with you? Something that you could take with you, as a souvenir in the heart, something that gave you the sense of place in life, world and history:

I was there.
I participated.
I connected with these people.
I know them.
I belong somewhere.
I am part of something bigger.
I have a place to return to (physically or in memories).


Included
(Credits): Wikipedia - Flickr - Bram Souffreau

Present
(Credits): Wikipedia - Czampal

Entranced
(Credits): Wikipedia - U.S. Army

This tangible grasp on the past is not just a matter of sentimental literature, it is a material for inner processing, that we live of - as much as of food, air or love. We need not to be afraid of nostalgia - the spirit may look to the future ("let’s make it better"), the intellect fixes its gaze on now ("let’s live in the present"), but the soul needs to be interwoven into the fabrics of the story-lines that link us with the past (who I was, how I changed, how different I am from ancestors, whose efforts I honor and continue in). The healthy self is integral, not monotheist - even in respect to time.

It's so simple and in the same time a little miracle when it works.

How to concentrate time, society or culture in a piece of art? The music, imagery, costumes, light or the epic scenes do their magic, but of course - the added value comes with the shared adventures, the story that develops over hours while it encompasses a breathtaking portion of history, human efforts and development:

A life and aspirations of the community concentrated in a song ...3%: Preciso me encontrar - by Liniker
A struggle and shared vision linking humans beyond individual self ...The Hunger Games: Hanging Tree - by James Newton Howard
A celebration of the achievements of the era ...Titanic: Southampton - by James Horner
A transferable experience and feeling - even if it is pain ...Lacrimosa - by Zbigniew Preisner
A vanity and redemption of the whole culture rediscovering its soul ...La Grande Belezza: Beatitudes - by Kronos Quartet
A collective despair over dreams turning into nightmares ...Requiem for a Dream: Lux Aeterna - by Kronos Quartet
A ray of humanism in an epic mayhem of the generations ... Game of Thrones: Mhysa - by Ramin Djawadi

Everywhere, everytime, everything

How important is this particular phenomenon? I believe that what we do not grasp consciously - can hold its grip on us subconsciously. What has no means of expression in a healthy way, will come back in a form of shadow, symptoms, illness. Empty rituals will leave a perceptible gap, that we may try to fill with futile but energy-and-resources-consuming obsessions. We can be easily manipulated through this channel - as many totalitarian establishments in the past did. It’s hard to say if inducing goosebumps is a technique that is used to manipulate crowds, or it is actually a quality that crowds search for and what holds them obedient and cooperative within vicious establishments. In recent popular culture's paralel: There’s something darkly attractive in the manufactured but elaborate-rituals-interwoven-with-meanings of Gilead society in The Handmaid’s Tale. This very quality can be uncovered in the non-fiction reality: the bewildering shifts between liberal (disuniting) and conservative (connecting) tendencies in the society. What are all those crowds hooked on populism tripping on? "Those bad people from the wrong side" may seek exactly that sense of pride, belonging, symbols, celebrations ... that makes them look like flag-fetishist dorks.


Dumb, delusional and dangerous:
Seeking purpose, meaning, identity - "someone like me"
(Credits): Wikipedia - VT

Dumb, delusional and dangerous:
acceptance of wolfpack in "cheeky" hate of others
(Credits): Wikipedia - Romancop

Dumb, delusional and dangerous:
sense of pride, honor, glory - just a simple appreciation.

We often forget that the inner structure and motivation that brings us to gather in cinemas and theaters and festivals - follows the prehistoric festive habit. That one that was present in the ancient tribal pagan ceremonies and that got later recycled in the church mass. We go to a specific designated (sacred) place other than our home (otherwise we could pray or watch a movie in our living room), where we meet other people and enact rituals together, in common effort (often putting emphasis on compassion, forgiveness, mindfulness), we hear/retell archetypal stories that provide reflection or inspiration, whether they are coming from Holy Book, or from director’s personal narrative. Festive clothes we put on (with a "vain" eye on neighbors, partners, potential lovers) are to confirm that this activity is other than some ordinary doing. It is intentional, sacred, ritualistic - whatever we prefer to call it. The point of our being there is to enjoy the shared experience and feel togetherness of the community bound by timeless stories that we have in common.


Festive costumes, to welcome extraordinary ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Sarmad Yaseen

... hear the core stories of our community ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Panoramio - Jaakko H.

... in sacred venues build to inspire awe.
(Credits): Wikipedia - Flickr - avlxyz

We may wonder where this "need" comes from. Whether it is a divine fingerprint - being created to enjoy communal life, bigger picture of the society or system, art composed of human beings with their life stories - or is it just a result of natural evolution, since we have survived cooperating in groups and tribes, which tried to strengthen their unity through wonder-evoking rituals. I don’t need to answer the question of origin, I recognize the soul’s need and try to work with it. I focus on the quality of the answer that the soul gets. I observe: If I am included in the Event that someone created for me - do I feel passive (as a head in the crowd), done to, executing proscribed steps - or do I actively co-create and shape the ritual? Do I allow myself to feel the goosebumps, with awareness of what bigger picture is being painted - or do I struggle with the feeling of something creepy, imposed on me, inappropriate?


It's not just something overwhelming ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Flickr - David Shapinsky

... it includes us, it defines us ...
(Credits): Wikipedia - Alterego

... it gives us place in history and community.
(Credits): Wikipedia - Chris Greenberg