Old School Ritual & Sci-Fi? | 12/31/21

I spent some time in my RSS feed reader today, and I read the words below on James A. Reeves's blog Atlas Minor, where Reeves writes about going to a Catholic Midnight Mass.  

I wonder what it would have been like to grow up in a world shaped by ritual.
The pews were crowded with an exceptional cross-section of humanity, all awake at this late hour, hoping to connect with something beyond themselves. Taking a seat in the back, I thought about Leonard Cohen’s comment that religion is the greatest form of art. Maybe I don’t need to feel like an interloper. Perhaps it’s okay if I admire Catholicism solely for its aesthetics, how it dramatizes grief and bends towards science fiction: The surgical ministrations of the priest and the fixation on eternal life and sexless creation; the swinging censer that fills the vault with smoke. The theatrical outfits and elaborate hats; the orchestrated calisthenics of kneeling, standing, sitting while a man on a platform holds up a golden book. There’s a fascinating feedback loop in how speculative fiction borrows from the ancient rites of a faith that yearns for a future without death.

I grew up in a very Catholic family, and ritual had a prominent place in my childhood. I read lots of science fiction as a way to escape my ritual-obsessed family dynamic.

Reeves's words help me see how connected the two are and how they might both be attempts to create something that comforts us as we are faced with our being-towards-death.

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