Scripture and Sunscreen
I’m pretty sure that in the distant future archaeologists, anthropologists, and religion scholars will look at the artifacts of our modern society’s summer activities and conclude that we worshiped a god named “Beach.”
Maybe it is a sun god. Maybe the deity watches over the water.
Beach is one of the more ubiquitous gods and the people made regular pilgrimages to worship sites.
Once there, a variety of ritual activities were used to expressed reverence for “Beach.”
Worshipers adorned special vestments, called “suits,” “trunks,” or “bikinis.” These robes had the bizarre quality of revealing as much skin as possible without showing the genitals. Special artifacts and furniture: chairs, umbrellas, and blankets. Various talismans and symbols: sunglasses, surfboards, and palm trees.
They even anointed themselves with sacred oils and lotions.
The principle motivation for this ritualized worship seems to have been to achieve “vacation” or “relaxation,” a type of sacrifice that was intended to stave off the wrath of an evil demon that was known by the names “stress” & “anxiety.”
Our lives are full of habits and rituals that seem ordinary to us. However, often what seems objectively reasonable in the present looks like foolishness when seen through the lenses of a distant culture.
The lesson is NOT that we’re just as crazy as the ancient peoples we sometimes dismiss as primitive (although that may be true). Instead, it teaches us that we’d be wise to let mythologists and anthropologists help us analyze the unconscious motivations that drive our secular present.
In our culture, we have a spiritual rhetoric that often contradicts our everyday actions. We rarely do what we say. But there is a coherent and reasonably consistent philosophical system that underlies our actions. The problem is, we’re rarely conscious of it. But we can be. All we have to do is admit that the mythopoetic reality of our lives is just as important as the quantifiable scientific reality.
One place to start is by asking where scripture might be hiding. Where are the BIG stories that lay down the ideological foundation of our culture? Movies, TV, pop songs, websites, and videogames.
But the majority of the scholars and intellectuals who work in our universities opt for a self-righteous elitist position that refuses to give anything but negative attention to the popular media. And the majority of our popular media, probably because of an unconscious inferiority complex, dismisses the intellectual elite as incoherent and unnecessarily verbose.
Because of this split, few academics give explicit thought to the texts that are current. And few of our current storytellers have a clear enough scholarly understanding of the way mythopoetic elements shape our cultural paradigms.
The result is a culture that’s largely out of control. I mean that literally. We’re so unaware of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it that our social customs, our ethical imperatives, and our cultural actions are in control of themselves.
Ours is an impetuous society that needs to consciously take responsibility for own trajectory. But first, we need to do the reflexive work that will force us to admit that what we want sits in stark contrast to the things that we say we want.
Jordan Shapiro is author of the book FREEPLAY: A Video Game Guide to Maximum Euphoric Bliss. For more information on Jordan CLICK HERE.