For the month of November, from 8 a.m. – 9 a.m., each day, I am sitting at the roundabout in the middle of my neighborhood (where Effie meets Lake Shore), and writing my “status updates” on a typewriter. Here, I report on the city, the people I meet, and whatever the day provokes. Afterwards, I go home and paste the updates to postcards and mail them off to people who have given me their snail mail addresses.
When I was younger, I moved to Alabama, where this word “ritual” was constantly infused with religion or tradition. As a teenager, I did not always fit into that context. I was often held accountable socially for not understanding, and unfortunately, that word had a somewhat negative connotation for me. Ritual was a way to exclude people or it could be seen in that way.
You either do the ritual or you don’t– and if you don’t then you are not a part of it, and therefore, you don’t fit into the story of us.
In my 20s, I went to The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa, a Buddhist school in Colorado. There, ritual was not just about religion or believing, but practice, and this practice was infused with a way of thinking about writing or art-making. Ritual was about being awake and conscious. The word represented this idea of showing up and being aware. I liked ritual in this context. I liked thinking about how it related to everyday life and art.
Now, in my 30s, living in Los Angeles, I have lost this idea of ritual, or my own consciousness of it– relationship with it, and this bothers me. I feel that ritual is not just about religion or tradition or art, but it’s something larger. It is what makes us live as fulfilled social human beings.
I want to dissect ritual more to understand not just the word, but you and me.
How does repetition transcend into habit and how does habit become ritual? Where does meaning come into the picture? As humans do we need ritual to survive, and if so, how does it function between us?
I started with the morning.
Previously, before November– before even getting out of bed, I would immediately check my social media– specifically, Facebook. I would want to see what the world was up to. Inevitably, I would instantly get sucked into these other voices, routines, and thoughts– a scrolling newsreel from my past: a friend in Alabama taking her kids to school, a colleague in Florida grading papers, an LA acquaintance sharing her new comedy video.
My past was overwhelming my present state of mind.
The past was in my head before the present had time to happen.
The electronic ritual of keeping up with my past was disrupting my current life: new thoughts and experiences.
I wanted to replace my electronic social ritual with a more tactile one. I wanted to slow it down and engage with my actual neighbors. I wanted to be more present in my own neighborhood/community, and I wanted to document this new tactile social ritual in a way that would allow me to reflect and analyze my findings.
So, now, here I am.
Writing status updates on my typewriter each morning at the roundabout, pasting them on postcards, and snail mailing them out to people who send me their addresses.